Friday, March 18, 2011

Question of the Month--Keeping Track of Ideas

Our question this month is "How do you keep track of ideas for new projects? How do you decide what to work on next?"


I keep track of future project ideas in my art notebook, especially as I am thinking of things I want to consider making for the PAC sale. Almost as soon as one sale is over, I start getting ideas for other things I would like to create for the next year. I may not get to all my projects in one year, and sometimes I carry ideas over from one year to the next. I check this list frequently.


In 2001, I started to keep what I call my idea books. Each one includes quotes, photos, sketches, writings that inspire me plus a compilation of all the art workshop handouts and instructions that I've attended. Twenty-one books make up my collection and I'm working in two more now. I refer to them all the time. Recently, I tagged each one with a list of the year and its contents to easily find the idea that I want to pursue. To decide what to work on next, I review my goals for the year or what new technique or media that I want to explore and start a new project.

Paula's tagged Idea Books:


1. I love to capture ideas and write them down in my little notebooks and journals. I get ideas from other artists, from magazine articles and from visiting galleries. I always feel a moment's thrill when I jot down a cool technique or groovy idea that I am sure I will want to try later on.

2. The truth is that I feel an incredible amount of resistance to just the idea of rereading and revisiting those ideas that I had jotted down so excitedly. I don't think that I have ever tried any of the "great art ideas" that I have been collecting for years... What's up with that? (And that is why I posed the question in the first place because I definitely need help and encouragement to actually put those ideas into action. Why the resistance? Why not dive back into the pool of inspiration and swim around with all those nifty ideas? Help!)


So many ideas, so little time! To keep track of ideas as they pop into my head or when I'm inspired by something I see, I keep notes tucked in a clipboard right on my studio workbench. I also keep a little composition book of ideas. Occasionally I get the images glued into the journal, but as you can see from this jumbled mess, sometimes I just tuck them in the book so I know where to find them.

Dayna's jumble of ideas:


I keep track of my ideas in a number of ways. I mostly catalog them in my mind. I call it "percolating." Since I have often experienced the loss of ideas, I also use a more formal method. I have kept a personal book for the past 11 years. I always decorate the covers to make them arty. Inside I keep a list of ideas along with drawings of things or design elements I like. In addition, there are lists of things to do, quotations, PAC meeting notes, and anything else I might write down. I usually carry it with me most of the time. Once a book is full I usually keep them. The books are all different and reflect a different style of decoration each year. Sometimes I go back through them and rehash ideas. I hate leaving a good idea on the table...


Most often I make something in reaction to a need or holiday. A PAC item for the picnic for example or Christmas or Valentines or in the case of my recent (and current) incarceration (broken ankle). I have done a strictly fun project pertaining to the ankle.

Sometimes I just get an inspiration out of the blue and set off to make something for the sheer fun of it. This doesn't happen often because I have spent most of my life doing things in response to a need, ie: samples for classes. I'm in the process of training myself to do art just for the heck of it. Hard to do!


I keep track of ideas for new projects in an art journal. That journal gets packed full of those little bits of inspiration especially after a treasure hunt during one of my artist dates with myself.

As far as what I decide to do next - it could be something as wonderful as a sunny 60* day in the springtime that lures me out to my studio to play. More likely it’s a looming deadline for an upcoming art show or gallery opening.

Jennifer's completed watch part jewelry pieces for her upcoming art opening at Schafer Studios in Beaverton, OR:


I actually have a small white board in my studio. I list my projects and ideas there and prioritize them, usually based on a due date for a commission or a fair deadline. Sometimes, of course, things not on the board that I just want to do jump to the top of the list. I think that’s what “art” is all about – spending time where your creativity takes you.


Many of my ideas come when I'm writing my morning pages (from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way). I doodle and make notes in the margins, then transfer good ideas to pages in the back of my notebook for keeping. When my spiral notebook is filled with morning pages, I pull the idea pages out and keep them all in an envelope to peruse later.

I also keep a more formal "idea" book. In it I put clippings from magazines, newspapers, show cards, etc. along with my own sketches and notes. Mainly these are just things I like, not necessarily projects I will make. I have pages of color palettes, shapes, or themes that appeal to me.

I don't seem to decide on my next project, it picks me. When something nags me enough, I know that's the one I need to do next.

Pages from Robin's Idea Book:


I not only have new projects, but old ones waiting in the cue for someone to give them attention! I finally went through all my old half-done projects spread around the studio, put them in their separate little piles, and put each project in a two gallon Ziploc bag. I then put them in a big plastic bin that fits under my desk, but still visible. When ever I need to do a project for fun, or for a retreat etc, I just go to the box, and select one to do. It is ready, with all the supplies in tact, and that works out wonderful for me.

I find that seeing stuff through the clear plastic is much better then in drawers, or in paper envelopes. Once they are out of sight in paper or drawers, they may as well be on a cruise to "forgotten art island"!!


Createology said...

I love Paula's Idea Books that are now tagged with dates and prompts. I have always jotted on scraps and clipped ideas and then found them all unorganized in a forgotten folder. Everytime I write on a scrap I know I should be writing in my journals but it never happens that way. Great question. Love reading each of the artist ideas and styles.

Gwen said...

Great thought-provoking post, I love Paula's tags, too. I have dozens of journals, but have to guess what might be in them based on the dates.
I love all of the different ideas! This blog is so interesting and inspiring!