Thursday, January 01, 2009

Making A Mark in 2009 - The Plan

The Ecology Park Pond, 28th December 2008 #1
14" x 10", coloured pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Goals are good for moving forward - BUT too many goals can leave you spinning!

Principles are great for keeping yourself on track as the world about you changes - IF you can work out what works for you.

Themes help you to see connections between different activities - but too many themes bring confusion rather than clarification.

Specific outputs and deadlines help to keep people focused on what needs to be done. You can use them to help yourself achieve what you want to be and do - BUT only if all your tasks, outputs and deadlines continue to be relevant in an ever-changing world.

...and the purpose of the above?

In 2009 my Plan involves
  • principles - the way I want to be
  • goals - what I want to achieve
  • themes - how I will connect activities
  • activities - what I will be doing
This year I'll have much less of a focus on specific outputs and much more emphasis on the artwork. This plan is more a statement of the way I will work rather than a whizzy business plan with 'to do' lists. The latter is what I used to do - but I'm really not at all interested in developing the business side of my art right now. Right now I'm much more interested in developing my art and its identity and style!


Here are a few principles I subscribe too which will inform my plan for 2009.

I'm expressing them in an idiomatic way because that makes them easier to remember! None of them are obviously about art - but all are applicable to enjoying art and making art. I might just write a bit more about them on this blog!
  1. Life is too short - once you're the wrong side of 50 it seems to me it's important to focus on what makes your life more satisfying and on what you want to do with the rest of your life - although I'm not planning on writing 1001 things I must do with my art before I die anytime soon! However I'd much rather read art books than iron sheets! It's not an excuse for being selfish - but it's a jolly good reason to avoid wasting time on unproductive endeavours and to learn how to walk away from things which aren't working.
  2. The journey is the reward. Which is a variation on the notion that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. I don't need to be the best there is - I do need to get satisfaction from the process of getting better at doing what I do - even if I experience some frustrations along the way. Recognising good work along the way (milestones) is good too.
  3. The original and the best. I'm not very interested in duplicating other people's work and I aim to be an original rather than a cheap copy! At the same time I think we can all learn from what has gone before. I'm certainly not averse to understanding how artists have used other artists' work to develop their own. It's finding your own interpretation - the twist - which is the real challenge.
  4. Variety is the spice of life! I've never been good at doing just one thing or having just one role. There's a number of interesting aspects to this principle which are very applicable to art. Such as
    1. A change is as good as a rest.
    2. What marks people out is what makes them different from the rest.
  5. There are no shortcuts! For me shortcuts are for keyboards rather than artwork. You become more efficient and effective at producing art through reiteration and refinement and changing the way you do things. You've got to put in the hours.
  6. 'Good enough' is good enough. This might seem contradictory to the above - whereas in my view it's actually the other side of the coin. You've got to put in the hours AND know when to stop. An attitude of perfectionism can be very limiting - whereas practice makes perfect. I'd rather accept that not everything I do is going to be perfect. I'd rather try and get better by practising and trying again than stay stuck trying to make one piece perfect. In my experience, the best artwork just 'happens' in a very simple and fluid - and sometimes fast - way following the development of ideas and the acquisition of skills.
  7. What goes around comes around. You get out what you put in. You get back what you give out. You get what you deserve. We create our own realities.
If you've got a principle which informs how you tackle your life and your art why not share it by leaving a comment below.


  1. LEARNING: To look at and learn more about art which I find stimulating. I'm not trying to understand all art. I don't mind if the stimulation is to the eye, brain or heart. I just want to know more about the art which arouses a response in me.
  2. DOING: To make art worth making. I'm more interested in doing better than doing more of the same. I'd like to be able to get what's in my head down on paper! I'd like to get past the feeling that I can't start because it won't be good enough - I know I have to start somewhere!
  3. SHARING: To celebrate what's good in art and to share it with others - whether it's art, artists, art techniques or art supplies. This is a major theme of my life. It's who I am and what I like to do. Sharing has many facets
  4. SHOWING: To show artwork because it merits display rather than because it's the thing to do. I much prefer seeing exhibitions to submitting work to them!
  5. SELLING: To gear selling activity to income targets and the realities of the marketplace. Right now this means that this is a low priority. Picking up on the principle of variety being the spice of life but too many genres makes an artistic identity confusing - I need to try and identify (say) three main genres to pursue.

My activities will be linked to themes in 2009. These have been influenced by what I learned or observed in 2008.

Mixed Media
I keep seeing brushwork in my visual (mental) interpretations of how my work will develop. Questions I need to provide an answer to include:
  • Could my liking for dry media be the reason why I'm resisting getting started on making new work?
  • Do I need to buy new brushes?
  • Do I need to do underpaintings?
The Face, the Figure and Female Artists
These are facts I 'discovered' in 2008
  • there's a lot of interesting female artists around - in the past and the present
  • female portrait artists do not get a lot of 'formal' recognition in the UK
  • I do a class on 'drawing a head' but never submit drawings of people to exhibitions
  • I include figures (without faces) in my sketches all the time - but never in my 'worked up' drawings
  • people are very interested in learning how how to sketch people - and I could be tempted to develop a workshop and instruction book.
I've been photographing an awful lot of flowers for the last two years and use it to learn more about a subject. I'm very drawn to
  • macro pictures which abstract the flower from conventional reality. What I like are the shapes, planes, patterns and colour fields within the petals, sepals and leaves.
  • the patterns in cacti and succulents continue to absorb me
  • developing a series of images which fit together in conceptual terms and on a screen or a wall.
I like to produce a sketch or a drawing that has a clear sense of "place".
  • When I make a drawing of a place as it is today, besides the conventional artistic considerations, I also like to try and understand the place, what it represents and why it looks the way it does. In a way I'm trying to see the story of the landscape behind the surface of what I can see.
  • I draw a lot more water than I realised!
  • I want to develop a series of drawings representing a journey - through space or time.
Communities of Interest
Non corporate communities of interest are emerging as a way of people working on specific subject matter
  • Watermarks as a community - within the blog and the ning community - provides a good enviroment for discussing different perspectives on making art. It's provided the stimulation for a complete new series of works - and I've already finished two!
I need to blog less - but not a lot less. It feels very creative to me and the blog posts often help me find useful information and sort out problems I'm trying to tackle.
  • I need to change the time I write my blog posts so I get more time to make art when the light is good. A task and finish approach with bedtime as the deadline for the first draft might work....with a quick edit in the morning.
  • I'd like to achieve 500,000 visitors by the end of June 2008.
Writing and Workshops
I see a logical connection between workshops and writing. I'm more and more convinced that I do want to write at length - what do you mean I write long enough already? ;) - and want to go down the self-publishing route - not least because I expect there to be some shake-outs on the publishing front during the recession and because there's greater scope for flexibility. I've identified that an awful lot of people would like me to expand on how to sketch people - see 10 Tips for How to Sketch People - so this looks like a good topic for a possible workshop (maybe in London) and guide.


I enjoy learning. I will continue my personal development as an artist AND as a person who appreciates art and likes looking at it. This will involve:
  • Learning more about art and artists - past and present - and in particular female artists.
  • I'm planning a series of interviews with female contemporary artists - hopefully one each month. One of them will be with Margaret Dyer, the artist whose work was voted best artwork on a blog in 2009
  • I look so I can see. I will continue to read art books and go to as many exhibitions as possible
  • I'll also be write reviews of both books and exhibitions as I find doing this always makes me look a lot more carefully and think much more about what I'm seeing and reading.
After a fairly intense period of reading, looking and learning I'm aiming to produce more art in 2009. I'm aiming to develop and refine my style so that it develops the characteristics of art I like in 2009.
  • Work may well start life as an underpainting in acrylic, watercolour, ink or gouache (guess who'll be experimenting in 2009!). It's very likely to be covered with dry media.
  • I particularly enjoy looking at and producing 'flat' areas which have lots of glazes produced using optical hatching and I suspect this might start influencing the design and compositions of work I produce.
  • Work will be figurative but with an element of abstraction.
  • New work will include drawings of places with people. This will be a developed version of the very many sketches I do which involve people. The places may well be identifiable but the people won't be.
  • I'll be developing a series of drawings of the Ecology Park Pond over the course of a year. This isn't a 365 day a year series - but I do want to develop a series which reflects a single place at different times of day and in different seasons. You can see the first one at the top of this post.
  • I'm hoping to develop a series of drawings of the Thames but haven't yet worked out how to tackle this. Sketches for it will be posted on Travels with a sketchbook (as will sketches of the pond and people and places).
  • I want to settle on a common and consistent format for the flower drawings.
  • I want to try drawing on gesso boards.
  • I want to find a baren and to see if my dodgy hand can cope with lino cuts.
  • I'll continue to develop my drawings in pen and ink - partly as an aid to focus and concentration in drawing from life.
There will be a continuing focus on developing how I can share what I learn and learning from others who share what they do. I'll be sharing information by:
  • writing Making A Mark Guides
  • reviewing exhibitions
  • writing book reviews
  • writing blog posts about artists and developing resources for art lovers information sites
  • writing blog posts about media and reviews of art materials and developing resources for artists information sites
  • writing about art business, the art economy and blogging for artists - and developing associated guides and information sites
  • highlighting - in 'who's made a mark this week' - all the other good people who share their knowledge, skills and information on their art blogs
I'll also continue to contribute to group blogs 'Urban Sketchers' and 'Watermarks'. If you're not already reading Watermarks, can I commend the level of discussion which has started about different approaches to making art.

I aim to participate in a limited number of exhibitions - to be decided
  • I'm going to review past drawings and/or produce some drawing of people which I'm happy about submitting for exhibition.
  • I'm going to produce an exhibition schedule with all the dates so I can avoid missing deadlines!
This will continue to have a low priority - but I may just start an Etsy store and/or publish a blog with work for sale. However the production/distribution process needs to be efficient. Plus I need to purchase a new scanner so that I can get more images set up for prints - mines developed a red line!

and finally...........

I'm enjoying reading everybody else's plans for 2009 - and looking forward to those which have still to be posted. Ones I've particularly enjoyed so far are those produced by


  1. What an interesting post, especially your principles; #1, #2and #6 really resonate with me. As a parallel, I have lately been thinking quite a bit about finding a balance between taking in (learning, reading, etc.) and giving out (the actual doing). In terms of the doing, I find that I need to create non-judgmentally, without thinking ahead to sharing, selling, etc., as a focus on the result often brings in some fear, for instance fear of trying something new.

    I look forward to following your path on your blog, as I see so many strong sides in you. Artistically, I admire your ability to turn any subject matter into an almost abstract composition of values, colors, and planes. I can easily see this ability translate into new media. I also sense a very astute business mind behind your articles related to art business - all amongst my favorites as I know of few people writing in this vein.

    I’ll end this comment with a quote from Annie Dillard’s A Writing Life: “A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all.”

    Happy New Year to you and all your readers!

  2. Good to read Katherine. I hope you find lots of success this year in the areas you most desire.

    I recently started some reading on Mary's interesting to think about what has changed and what hasn't since Degas said, "I do not admit that a woman can draw like that."

  3. Thanks Anna

    That's a jolly good quote - I must make a note!

  4. Two quotes for my first post of the year - is this a trend?

    I've not seen that one before. I certainly had Mary Cassatt in mind as one of the artists I'd take a closer look at.

    Then there's Berthe Morisot, Laura Knight, Gwen John..........

  5. I forgot to add that the pond on this post is fabulous...your work continues to mature and impress! It is so good to see CPs used in a different way.

    Oh, the quote was in reference to the print "Woman Bathing" at her print exhibit at Durand Ruel. Degas asked if the back had been modelled. She said no and he responded with that.

  6. What an excellent post. I can really relate to your goals and especially your 1st and 3rd principles. They almost seem to clarify for me what I was trying to say about my own need for focus this year. As usual I can count on finding valuable information and wisdom here, and inspiring artwork! I look forward to following along with your blog again this year. Happy New Year!

  7. I can't see The Pond! Blogger has decided not to show me any images at present. Probably heard about my fragile ego!

    I wish I had said what Anna T. has said. Beautifully put and so true!

    Reading your goals I found myself nodding - yes, yes, yes! - particularly to The Journey is the Reward - not wanting to duplicate other peoples' work; - moving on to mixed media - pushing blogging (and by that I also mean 'reading blogs') to the tail end of the day. A painting not started in the morning is a painting never started! You can quote me ;)

    There is so much overlap in your intentions for this year, Katherine that I think I'll just tag along as usual. It's worked for me so far. It's worked wonderfully in fact!

    Great and thoughtful post.

  8. 1-7 I was nodding in total agreement :>)

    Renoir thought women painters an abomination and said he painted with his p**** - so not a pleasant man! he said women belonged in the kitchen and bedroom - I've never been able to look at his paintings of sweet vacuous women in the same way since.

  9. I agree with many of your thoughts and desires for your art in the coming year.

    Water for me too is proving to be a turning point and will become the basis of more of my work this year.

    I do like this cp. It reminds me of a little wetland in Torbay (the Newfoundland Torbay :) that I pass each day and swear that I will draw. Perhaps I need to add 'no more procrastination' to my 3 'Ps'!

  10. I have enjoyed this blog immensely over the last year and it has always encouraged me to think about what I am doing on-line and with my art. Your list of goals and principles is inspiring and makes me look forward to another great year of Making a Mark.

    Happy New Year!

  11. Just wanted to say Happy New Year. I look forward to your continuing journey and especially the generosity with which you share it.

  12. Interesting post. I also like the painting at the top.

    I am going to re-read your post several times a day for a few days so I can let some of the good in seep into my brain (and hopefully allow me to make goals for this coming year).

    Happy New Year from the Tirolese Family

  13. Wonderful post, I wish I could organise my thoughts like this! I find if I put plans into words, they lose all momentum. The principles resonated with me too, especially putting in the hours but avoiding perfectionism.

    I love the soft quality of your drawings and the gorgeous colours - I hope we will get to your work more often in 2009!

  14. I love this post both for what you say about your own goals and the general remarks at the beginning. I look forward to both your clarity and seeing your art work in 2009. (The pond series is really shaping up beautifully.)


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