Monthly Archives: May 2009

Turtle Steps

  In one of Aesop’s most famous fables, The Tortoise and the Hare, the moral is “slow and steady wins the race.”

    It’s a process of looking at the big picture or an end that is not in sight and breaking the main task down into a series of smaller tasks or in the turtle’s case, steps. The point is most things that seem overwhelming can be broken down to less intimidating and more manageable tasks. 

  I had a goal that I’ve met recently that took time and lots of turtle steps. I started it six years ago when I had an idea for a children’s story. It actually bumped around in my head for two years as I considered story lines and characters.  I sat down one day and wrote it in two hours. Then I broke the story down line by line, page by page, to see where images would best fit. Then I roughed out some thumbnail sketches of each illustration and eventually I created each final illustration. This took another four years of turtle steps, making time here and there, it was a job that had no end in sight, until I realized I’d completed eighteen illustrations and only had a cover left to design. The steps also included research, attending writing conferences, talking to other published and self published authors, learning the technical processes it requires to prepare art for printing and also the politics of this new “business” I was venturing into.

   But life is good. At this moment, the pre press process is in good hands at a graphics company in Ohio and within a couple more weeks should be on its way to the printer in Kentucky. Turtle steps, patience and perseverance, as well as a great cheering section and support from family and friends cannot be underestimated when it comes to achieving goals. And yes, you will hear more about it later.

   Amazingly, I have had a life all the while this was happening and enjoyed the entire process of learning with each turtle step. Did I know that I could do it before I started? Ah, yeah. I’ve known the story about the Tortoise and the Hare since I was a kid. It made sense then and it makes sense now. Call it what you will, chunking, breaking things down, baby steps…keep it simple and keep it moving forward, you will eventually get there. I share this as much as I believe in myself, it is a process that allows me to achieve. You just need to understand it only take s turtle steps.

The best place to start is at the beginning. Determine what you want to accomplish, whether it is a creative project or running a Marathon. Make a list of everything you need to do in the order you need to do it. Then isolate each part into a step that can be accomplished in the time you have allotted for it. If you are write a book of poetry or create a graphic novel, maybe you only need to set aside an hour a day or if that is not available maybe only one evening a week. For most people who have a passion for their art form, it’s not hard to make time because it sort of integrates into the rest of their life, but even that doesn’t guarantee you can focus on small steps to build upon. It is truly amazing to see how that one hour a week accumulates into a lot of words. If it’s a Marathon you want to run in, just imagine all the extra benefits you get from accumulating frequent runner miles. You may even see the tortoise at the finish line, cheering you on.   


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Ordinary Sources for Creative Ideas

mail   Just recently I found a competition in Art Calendar, which is a monthly publication that offers business advice and listings of art exhibits and opportunities. The competition was at the Brevard Museum of Art in Melbourne, Florida and had an interesting catch to it. The art submissions had to include a Chinese take out container of a specific size that they provided the artists.

   You may remember Cass Scopino, the pine needle basket maker I wrote about in an earlier article. She  lives in Melbourne, so I called her to let her know about the exhibit.  Of course, it was less than two weeks before the deadline, but what the heck. Cass has made some fascinating baskets, but this was a real stretch. How could she integrate a cardboard Chinese food container into a pine needle basket? To be honest, I knew what I would have made, I had no idea how she would approach it. I also wasn’t sure she’d take the challenge on with such short notice and the stakes of having to go through a jury process. But she jumped on it despite the risk of rejection or more realistically – not being selected.  

 I’d love to go on about risks and fears to submitting work to juried shows, but I realize that I should save that for another day. This type of ‘Call’ from a gallery or museum is an opportunity for a real creative challenge and should be celebrated.

We have a great educational museum near us, The Eli Whitney Museum, which puts out a call to artists each year, in the name of Leonardo Da Vinci. The requirement is  to create art with a specific object determined by the curators. It is about art and invention. One year it was the paper clip, each year it is different.

    Requiring one element be consistent in each artist’s entry by no means causes them to appear in the least bit similar. These are great creative challenges to participate in. Sometimes not having a restriction is more inhibiting or overwhelming than having one.

   Cass worked like a woman possessed to finish her piece and meet deadline for the Brevard Art Museum. She gathered a cheering section of friends and family and I believe went without sleep to finish it.  It was a personal mission just to submit the piece.  She also decided to have fun with. Her aptly named “Chinese Fire Drill” was accepted into her first ever Museum exhibit. Her descriptions of what other artists made proved how differently brilliant our brains are in solving creative problems. The help of a third party imposing an object provides a different kind of challenge.

 So now it’s your turn. I am challenging my tribe to make a creative statement. You may chose any media (2D or 3D which can accommodate poetry or text as well), but you must interject a clothes pin(s) somehow into your design or structure. Everyone has access to and can be inspired by this simple functional tool. By the way, spring action or straight, it doesn’t matter. Cass did her food container challenge in a week, but I want you all to get enough sleep. Photograph or scan your finished art and send an image to me by June 15th at  This challenge is for sharing brilliant ideas and is not being judged. The incentive is to have fun and to share with other creative folks. It also gives you another piece of work for your own portfolio. I will post your work in July to share with the tribe. Now let’s have some fun.

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