Self-Assessment: 2018—Filling Journals, Using Up PaintJanuary 3, 2019
Some Background and The Brand of Paint I’ve Been Using Lately
Yes, this painting actually has something to do with self-assessment and goal setting. First I want to say something about the materials…
While I did sketch some more after painting this image yesterday (Dec. 31, 2018) this turned out to be my final painting for 2018. I was housebound (because of cold weather and not wanting to drive with my vision issues). I decided to use up all the dried watercolor in my studio palette.
Currently I use a Heritage palette for studio use. The Heritage palette has a sealing “ring” on the lid. When you close it the paint stays moist (if there is moisture in it when you close it). (Often I’ll simply put my flat ceramic palettes in large Ziplock™ bags.)
For the last 18 months or so I’ve been using a lot of Winsor & Newton (W&N) watercolors again. I’d left them for 30 years. I came back to them because of some landscape pigment suggestions and I’ve been working my way through the paint. I still prefer Daniel Smith watercolors, but I have found the W&N have lasted fresh longer in the palette without anything “growing” in the paint. I haven’t done a control test with the Daniel Smith, so I’m not giving them up any time soon. I just wanted you to know why I was using the W&N. So I’m painting portraits with a traditional landscape palette and having fun doing it. Oh…
…And the addition of Holbein Lilac Gouache. I couldn’t help myself. I went to the store a couple weeks ago, saw it, wanted it, got it. I love lilac. (Sometimes I am impulsive.)
I also purchased a bunch of different brands and types of white watercolors and gouache. I’ll write something about them in the near future (maybe February). This painting actually has several different types of white gouache in it. But the painting wasn’t a test—I included the different whites simply because the tubes were in grabbing distance. I guess you could say I was warming up for the testing to come.
How My Year Ended: Making a Self-Assessment
Two weeks ago I finished my 11 x 8 inch journal and turned to Dick, “I am not going to start another journal this year, you know how I am.” He just laughed and said “Yes, I know.”
What we both understood is that at the end of the year I get obsessed with finishing any journal I have going by the end of the year. Well sort of obsessed. I tell myself that it’s OK not to finish them, but if I don’t finish them I don’t get to count them in my page total (you get the idea). Typically I simply go to the zoo a couple days in a row, do some portrait sketches and bingo bango I’m done.
This year was more complicated. (I won’t go into it, but it has to do with classes I was prepping and trips I took.) I ended up having 5 journals running, but one by one in the fall I picked them off—filled them up.
Then the last one was filled with only about 2 weeks in the year left. I didn’t want to start another multi-signature journal and spend all my free time painting when I had so much video editing I needed to get done.
It looks like I took decades to learn BALANCE. I simply wouldn’t go there.
Then a friend proposed a visit and I knew I’d go to the zoo with her, so I started a pamphlet I’d made with Fabriano Artistico. It wasn’t like starting a new journal—really. (My previous plan was to simply use loose sheets for the rest of the year as I also keep a loose sheet journal—it is included in my totals.)
My friend caught the flu and cancelled her trip. I had those 16 pages and only a few days left in the year. Not a problem. Cross that off the to-do list.
If you’d like to make some pamphlets for yourself go check out my FREE pamphlet making class here. Who should make pamphlets? Anyone who has a favorite paper they want to work on when they are out and about sketching!.
But before I finished this pamphlet (it had 16 pages) I wanted to use up the paint in the studio palette!
How This Portrait Was Painted
Since most of you want to know how these sketches happen I’ll give you a quick run down. I had a skull busting headache for the last 4 days of the past year. It’s related to my vision issues. But I had a few pages in my pamphlet journal that was the last journal I had with blank pages for 2018. I decided I was going to finish that pamphlet.
I took some bulldog clips and clamped the open pamphlet journal in a vertical position onto my easel. I have a side holder attached to my easel for my iPod so I called up a photo from Sktchy (Dick was off doing something with his family). I got out the now solidly dried watercolors, spritzed them with water, and started sketching with the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen, FB. I corrected some lines with the MB. I decided that the headache was too annoying to do a finished piece so I got out some Montana Markers and put in a dark blue background and some facial color thinking that I would simply finish one eye and call it quits.
Instead I started playing with the paint, moving the shapes about, and refining, until I got to the point when I knew I had corrections to do, but if I did them I’d mess up bits that I really love. (I really like from the nose tip down!)
In the 90 minutes that I was sketching I also got out the Holbein lilac gouache and the various brands and types of white gouache that I’m going to be testing later.
A great side benefit was that I was able to use up most of that old paint, clear off the palette, and be all set to start the new year with fresh paints!
So, journals filled, palette paint used (and palette cleaned), all that remained was to look back over 2018 and make a self assessment.
Assessing How 2018 Went
If you’ve been a reader of my blog over the 10 years that I’ve been posting you know that I end each year with a self assessment. I look at what I’ve been able to accomplish and how that relates to my goals. Then I make some assessments.
Today with you I’m just going to take a quick look at two areas of my life—workouts and physical health, and journal pages.
These two items tell me a lot about each other, but also about how other things in my life went. For instance if I have a low page count in my journal it typically corresponds with a high output of gallery/show paintings. And the physical health connection is obvious.
I want to say something about both of these areas because I want to make a case for keeping a journal, for setting goals and then assessing them. It’s a positive thing that I’ve been doing since childhood and I recommend it.
So Why Is It Important to “Keep Track”?
A lot of people I know keep journals or sketchbooks and never look at them after they close them. I know that those same people often complain to me about how they didn’t get anything down “last year.”
But yet they have a record that could set them straight.
This past year was hard on me. I spent the first part of it recovering from a fractured foot and torn ankle which meant I couldn’t get in my daily cycling (indoor because it was winter). That made me a little grumpy. Then my mother-in-law Phyllis died. That knocked me down pretty hard.
Grief is different for everyone, but I found it hard to stay connected with things I typically do. I still did the things I typically do, but I didn’t really register the doing internally.
So my first point is that if you keep a journal and do all the things you typically do in that journal, you can look a back at them at the end of the year.
In the fall I was feeling a little frustrated that my miles for cycling were down so low and that my journal page count was also lower than I can remember it being.
But the wonderful thing about having the journal (and my cycling log book) is that at the end of the year you can look back at it with your goals in mind and think about where you want to go moving forward.
This year my outside miles (which included a couple of snow-free days in December!) totaled 1,697.4.
My already somewhat dismal attitude about 2018 could have taken a hit with that number, considering that I’ve been averaging 2,500 or more per year. But because I have records I could remember that I couldn’t ride through April because of the ankle and foot injury so I got a late start. And additionally I sliced off a large portion of my left index finger at the end of March. (I just have one word of advice for you: Dermabond.)
Next my records remind me that from the beginning of June through the second week in August I was sick with bronchitis. That’s like 10 weeks right there. And it’s some of the most productive weeks of the season. It’s when I’m warmed up and road ready again and putting in 100 or more miles each week. Well if we add the weeks I missed in the spring I could have easily reached my normal numbers.
My point is don’t beat yourself up about these deviations from the norm without looking at the reasons behind them.
If you’re just sitting on the couch, well you don’t get any credit for that, but things beyond your control happen you have to learn to go with the flow.
Looking back at the training log I can see that I’m still as interested in cycling as ever, in fact more so. With the help of my massage therapist David Wicklund at The Doorway for Better Health I actually rode the whole season without shoulder pain.
So what about the journal pages? Well at first that seems a little more problematic to me. The page count was very low through the summer; and a little low over all. I got through journals A through M, with a total of 1,083 pages. (I compare this to great years when I get through journals lettered U, V, X…and have 1,800 or more pages.)
The great thing about having a journal in which you keep track of what you’ve been up to during the year is that you see immediately where your time has been going.
OK, keeping a time sheet on all your projects helps with this too and I’ve always done that, and really enjoy using Toggl for that process now.
When I look back at my journal and see that my year was taken up with preparing for teaching at Sketchkon and also dealing with the injuries already mentioned. For Sketchkon I picked a topic which meant I needed to paint a bunch of paintings to discuss with the students. That’s not a hardship, but it means attention away from my other tasks and goals. And with injuries you simply have to allow yourself to recover. Another nod to seeking balance.
Because I have my journal, and my timesheets, I can very quickly see where my time was spent and also see that the page count I is totally reasonable. It’s especially reasonable when you consider that my goal for this year was to finish my Sewn-on-the-Spine online binding class and my timesheets tell me how much time I spent shooting and editing video.
Here’s my point, we get so wrapped up in what we are doing, whether it’s healing, or keeping a healthy regimen, or doing our work, that we forget the specifics when we look over our year. And if you have a journal and you keep minimal stats on your activities—simply notes as your days go by on what you do (you don’t have to be as obsessive as I am) then you cannot help feeling good at the end of the year that you’ve been productive.
Did you get everything done on your goal list? Nope. I still haven’t finished the videos for that class (but hope to soon).
Did you bust past personal bests in your physical or creative activity? Well in my case this year, nope. But what I do see is a clear picture of time well spent; that goal to finish that binding class was important to me and I can clearly see where the time went.
How Do You Use This Information?
It’s not all rainbows and light. Sometimes we look carefully at our year and see that we’ve been churning our gears with no clear reason as to why.
Here’s where it gets even more important to think about what our goals are and look at how we’ve spent our time—because now we can make a new plan that takes into account the reality of our lives. I make plans now based on how much time I spend on eldercare—can I spend as much time as I used to on my projects, both personal and work related?
No. But because I’ve made a choice about how I’m spending that time I can feel good about it. And I don’t fret that I didn’t spend more time on my personal and work projects.
We only have so much time in life. We have to look at how it is breaking down and getting used and then make a plan to use that time better.
The journals, the exercise log (which is kept in my date book, which is another great thing to have for planning), and even timesheets are great tools for you to look at how you met your goals or used your time. Through them you can begin to see a better picture of your real life.
Give Yourself Some Credit
There’s one more thing that the journal will do for you. If you didn’t get those 15 new paintings for an upcoming show painted, or you didn’t do ——– (fill in the blank), look at your journal and see that at least you were showing up for your life, documenting moments of your life, engaging in your creativity. That’s huge. So many people walk zombie like through life.
Is it enough?
Well if you set goals for yourself, just looking back through your journal is probably not going to be “enough.” But it is going to be the starting point for you to set new goals and to manage your time more successfully.
Long ago I found that if I really wanted to paint large (or small images) for a show, I had to have a year with fewer journal pages. Are you willing to give that up? That’s the type of thing you ask yourself when setting your goals. It doesn’t mean that you’re giving up journaling, it just means that you are giving up a chance for a personal best of pages. (OK, some years you might be able to do both but remember I’m writing about BALANCE.)
How Do You Start?
First take a moment to look over your 2018 journals. Count the pages if you want, but more importantly look at the days on which you worked. When were there gaps in your productivity? What caused those gaps? Work demands, family travel, illness, etc.?
Make some notes. Those notes will help you find triggers that district and derail you. Then when they come up again you’ll be able to handle them better, if only to accept that there are things in life that derail you. Or you’ll devise a way to not be derailed!
Next, cut yourself some slack. Think hard about what really worked for you last year—family gatherings you put together, paintings you did get into shows, books you read, whatever. What of all of that do you want to bring forward into 2019?
What new stuff do you want to bring in?
I suggest to my Drawing Practice students that they do a self-evaluation every 6 weeks, that they plan projects based on an analysis of what’s going on in their lives and what time they really have.
Having realistic goals means you have realistic expectations. And that’s the best way to get things done.
I suggest you do a self-evaluation of your entire year. Look at the “stats” from all the areas of your life and decide how you want to spend your time better.
You might find activities that you want to let go of. You are sure to find activities that you want to devote more time to. Whichever it is for you, you’ll have to make choices and that means you’re showing up for your life.
I hope you all have a great 2019.