New Prints + A New Year = New Focus

It’s linocut time! For the past few months I’ve been working on a new series of larger linocut prints (like the kingfisher here, above). I’ve been really excited to spend more time on printing lately, which is something that has been pushed to the back burner for too long. 

It’s sometimes hard for me to prioritize tasks and projects: running a small business and freelancing means there are always lots of projects on the docket, and lots of balls to juggle. (And sometimes the balls are on fire, and your hands are on fire, and everything is on fire.) Sometimes it feels completely overwhelming to think of the obligations I have, and that feeling often makes me push my personal projects to the back of the line. But here’s the thing I realized this year: these “personal projects” aren’t really a separate line item–they’re an integral part of my business. Making art is the heart of my livelihood, and just because a work in progress doesn’t have a deadline or a client attached to it doesn’t make that any less important to the big picture. 

It took me a while to realize that. But that re-focusing of the lens has given me permission to work on new projects that Past Lauren would have pushed to the back burner, mumbling something about how work for clients and work for product development needed to come first. Don’t get me wrong: work for my clients is very important to me, and it’s fulfilling, too. And work for my own product development is an integral part of my business. But if those two parts of the puzzle take all of my time and attention, then that doesn’t leave time for one of the most important part of being an artist: the play. It’s the play that so often leads to growth. 

When I was feeling particularly overwhelmed one day, A (who is quite brilliant about these things), told me this: “I have a point system. If the things I’m working on don’t earn enough points, I stop doing them.”

“Tell me more,” I said, on my fifth cup of coffee.

“There are four categories,” he said. “Something I’m spending a lot of time on needs to either: 

  1. Make my life easier
  2. Make me happy
  3. Make me money
  4. Teach me a skill I want to have

“You get a point for each box that it ticks, and I need each thing I’m doing to tick just one box,” he said. “If something you’re doing ticks none of those boxes, perhaps you should consider not doing it anymore.”

This, to me, was genius. I immediately starting applying this to the tasks that I spent the most amount of time on. As it turns out, there are a few tasks that I can let go. 

Saying no to these zero-point tasks has already opened up more space in my days (this is a work in progress, of course), but it’s encouraging to see the result. Since making this decision to give myself more time for creative development (aka Play), I’ve done two things to make myself commit to this new habit. First, I committed to spending two weeks at an artist’s residency, which will give me lots of interrupted time for printmaking. (No excuses.) Second, I accepted an invitation to be in a group show in Asheville, NC beginning in February of 2022 (more on that later). 

These two commitments mean I have to prioritize my printmaking for a couple of months—so I can’t put this on the back burner. And yeah, this activity ticks a few of the boxes. 🙂 I’m super excited about both, and ready to make more space in my life for those things that I love. The New Year always has us thinking about resolutions, and like a lot of people, I’m bad about the follow-through. I’ve got lots of exciting plans for the coming year—and they begin with this shift of mindset and this small step. 

Here’s hoping the New Year brings us all some time for reflection and rejuvenation—and brings us all closer to our goals and dreams. Below, check out the sneak peek of another block I’ve been working on and get a glimpse of the printing process.