Friday, January 04, 2013

New Year's Goals and Resolutions for 2013

Happy New Year!

Blurry photo of concentrated liquid watercolor New Year illustration
A test with liquid watercolor playing with wet into wet watercolor technique.
There's three things most people associate with the phrase "New Year".

New Year's babies, New Year's parties, and New Year's Resolutions.

It's the last that resonates with the most people.  For many, the new year is a blank slate, an opportunity to rally the forces and reflect on the past year.  Most people make resolutions about losing weight, getting in shape, or reading more books.  

I think those sorts of resolutions are great, particularly if your life is a little more settled than mine is.  My life is about to get a little hectic, with my SCAD graduation right around the corner and a big move right after that, so I need to focus on getting ready for that.  This may seem like a hugely daunting task, but there's one riddle I keep in mind for trying times like this:

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

One bite at a time.

Goal setting is important, especially if you're an artist.  Particularly if you're currently a student or self employed, without the external structure of employment to keep you on task and a boss to keep you goal focused.  For me, I use New Year's as a time of reflection on the year that past, and as an opportunity to set new goals for the future.  I'm going to use my New Year's Resolutions to break my year down into manageable chunks and utilize this opportunity to really visualize how I see the next year of my life unfold.

This year, setting goals is particularly important, as I'm scheduled to graduate from SCAD: The University of Creative Careers in March with my masters in Sequential Art.  This leaves me a few short months to finish the rest of my 20 mandatory thesis comic pages (I'm at 12 right now) and tune up my thesis to graduation quality, as well as apply for jobs and figure out my next major step.  Of course, I find this fairly terrifying, but I'm going to try and break the next few months of my life into manageable steps.

I set goals for myself year round, utilizing organizational tools such as calendars, planners, lists, and brainstorming, but I don't always publicly share them.  Since New Year's is the traditional time for the airing of these hopes and dreams, and since I usually share my New Years resolutions here on the blog, I thought I'd do so this year as well.  If and when these are accomplished, I'll continue to add more goals and challenges to my list.

I think one of the major downfalls of traditional New Year's lists is that they're thought of twice a year- when they're written, and at the start of the next year.  By having an evolving list of resolutions, I'm constantly considering what I've accomplished and what I'm still working to achieve.  I have a lot of goals on my list, partially so that there is always something engaging I could be working on, and to remove some pressure.  If I only had a few goals listed, there would be a lot of pressure to pursue all of them, but with many goals, I can pick and choose.  At the end of the year, there are always goals that I could have spent more time on, but I'm usually satisfied with my progress.

I try not to focus too hard on breaking bad habits.  I don't think that I'm perfect, but I would rather focus on things I'd like to achieve, rather than things I'd like to stop.  When I need to break a habit, I put a positive spin on it.  For example, instead of resolving to 'stop being late', I might resolve to 'wear a watch more often'.

For large, difficult goals like 'get organized' or 'work on more comics', it may be helpful to break those goals into subgoals, such as 'write more lists, utilize a planner, set alarms on cellphone' and 'script out concept, design characters and setting, thumbnail, rough, and pencil'.

Reflection on Resolutions of New Year Past

Last year I set a lot of goals, some more powerful than others, some more oblique than others, and some a little grandiose.  Throughout the year, I put special focus on some goals, like attending more conventions, talking to more editors, and finishing more mini comics.  Thanks to goals like that, I was able to attend MoCCA with a fleshed out half table, give panels at Anime South East and Anime Weekend Atlanta, and work on 7" Kara despite a staph infected knee.  I finished two installments of When I was 13, did a handful of freelance work, and visited SCAD Atlanta for their Comic Arts Forum.  I really used my resolutions as a springboard to propel myself forward, and I hope to do the same this year.

 Some of my favorite goals from last year were:

  • Be a force for good
  • Draw more comics
  • Take more risks
  • Promote positivity
  • Form alliances with other artists
  • Work on 7" Kara
  • Be a better friend
  • Take time for myself
  • Ask for what I need
  • Laugh more
  • Look for inspiration
  • Say 'yes' more often
  • Smile more
  • Be nicer to Tech Boy
  • Life the life I want
  • Be grateful
  • See the good in others
  • Study art for me, not just for comics
  • Challenge myself
  • Talk to editors

These are my favorites not because I was necessarily always successful, but because I feel like, for the most part, these are goals that carry over into 2013 well.  These are also goals that challenge and inspire me, goals worth repeating as a mantra.   These New Year's resolutions inspired me to dream, to push myself when I was tired or feeling lazy, and challenged me to grow.

Some goals that I was less successful about completing, and need to revisit are:

  • Be more zen
  • Contribute more to SEQAlab
  • Volunteer
  • Streamline commissions
  • Spend more money chasing my dreams and less on clothes
  •  Live the life I want
  • Be grateful
  • See the good in others
  • Create a personal brand
  • Smile more
  • Be nicer to Tech Boy
  • Utilize website
  • Have more adventures
  • Take more reference photos to share
  • Keep the apartment cleaner
  • Share more
  • Start Livestreaming again
  • Do more commissions
  • Talk to Scholastic
  • Interact with those who inspire me
  • Be a force for good
  • Draw more comics
  • Loosen up artistically (and socially)
  •  Do more gesture sketches/sketch more from life
Some of these missed opportunities (like talking to Scholastic) were entirely out of my control, despite my best efforts.  Some goals were missed due to laziness on my part.  And some deserve to be on my list of New Year's resolutions every year until I die, because they are just that important.

So, in addition to last year's microwaved goals, this year I would like to:

  • Continue to work on 7" Kara, completing Chapters 2 and 3 before graduating
  • Move the blog over to my website
  • Finish the written portion of my thesis, edits and all
  • Graduate
  • Work more freelance
  • Complete more commissions
  • Update my resume
  • Update social networking sites like LinkedIn, Behance
  • Find a comic blog to write guest posts for
  • Design and utilize Project Wonderful ads for the blog
  • Design and utilize Deviantart Adcast ads
  • Move away from Savannah
  • Do more indie comic conventions (like MoCCA, SPX)
  • Make more contacts outside of SCAD
  • Purchase a new car
  • Create and live by a household budget
  • Begin posting 7" Kara online as a webcomic
  • Do more mini comics
  • Improve my graphic design skills
  • Design Christmas cards next Christmas
  • Design two new charm sets for conventions
  • Talk to more editors
  • Do more illustrations
  • Become more proficient with traditional media
  • Start traditional methods printing again
  • Learn how to bind books
  • Set up a working studio
  • Do more product reviews
  • Strive to be a useful resource to other artists
  • Challenge myself to grow as an artist
  • Revisit Mechacon
  • Cultivate friendships with artists outside of the SCAD umbrella
  • Attend conventions outside of the American East
  • Learn new techniques
  • Develop a freelance workday that works for me
  • Create a new life for myself outside of Savannah
  • Focus on utilizing SEO improvement webapps to improve the quality of this blog.
  • Focus on only setting three goals per day, and achieving those three goals.  And once those goals are achieved, feeling satisfied with my effort.
And there's one goal I'd really like to focus on:  Giving adequate credit to other artists.

"Credit where credit is due" is not just a phrase for bankers and lawyers.

                                                                                                 -Peggy Hill

I realize that I cannot make goals for others, but something that I would like to see the whole of the online art community do more of is give credit where credit is due.   Whether it's Tumblr, Twitter, Blogger, Facebook, or Instagram, it isn't that hard to credit the original source.  A lot of people forget to also credit original ideas, inspiration, and new techniques.  As you progress as an artist, you'll assimilate a lot of these things and they'll eventually become your own, but giving credit to the source not only helps your audience find more information, but will also benefit that source by driving an appreciative audience in his or her direction.

A few to keep in mind:

If someone teaches you a technique, give them credit.
If someone introduces you to a tool or medium, give them credit.
If someone inspires you, or your work is a reaction to theirs, give them credit.
If someone teaches you how to do something, use a program or what tool is best for the job, give them credit.
If someone loans you a tool that allows you to complete a piece, give them credit.
If someone provides necessary support, give them credit.
If someone provides you with useful resources, give credit.

Art isn't created in a vacuum, and artists don't live in a bubble. We consume and we process, we learn and hopefully we teach.  By citing your sources, you're validating your rational and showing appreciation for those who've come before you.  Just as there's no shame in using references, there's no shame in looking up a technique, watching a Youtube video of someone using a media you're unfamiliar with, or in crediting your sources.   This is something that I, too, need to be more proactive about, especially since I dispense so much advice, and really rely on the good word of others to drive traffic to this blog.  I find that my own popularity increases when I'm willing to share useful resources with others, and no one thinks less of me for utilizing the work of others.   By opening my blog up to other artists, I've not only helped them gain much needed support for ventures such as Kickstarters and webcomics, but I've made my blog a more valuable resource by expanding the point of view.  Without this support, I wouldn't've had access to some of the fantastic opportunities that have come my way.  So I'm grateful.

What this all boils down to, to me, is that we all need to work hard at making the overall online art community a better place.    I believe that we are a part of the community that we help build.

So these are my resolutions for 2013.  As usual, there's a strong focus on the professional.  Hopefully, sharing these publicly will shame me into taking it seriously.

What are your goals, dreams, and resolutions for 2013?  Do you tend to make resolutions that are more professional or personal?  How do you go about achieving your New Year's resolutions?