20For20 Day 7: Self-Direction

"Self-direction is a form of leadership, and there are many more followers than leaders. Your daily practice requires your leadership."

- Eric Maisel, The Power of Daily Practice (62)


One of the big adjustments I made after I graduated from college was to figure out how to continue making art without the structure of a college class. Being self-directed means I determine how I spend my time and what I spend it on. It is supposed to feel so free, but I often feel lost.


How should I spend my time so I feel like I'm getting better at my work?


Taking classes as an adult is not really a guarantee that you will get better. You might get better at doing something exactly like our teacher. Not all artists are good teachers. Not all classes are organized to help you learn effectively.


In order to be self-directed, I think you need to self-aware. What do I want? What am I good at? What do I need to get better? Maybe a coach or a therapist could help you work through these questions, but in the end, you need to choose for yourself.


Today I experimented with making value studies from yesterday's drawings. One of the things I've observed about myself when I mix colors is that I have a hard time finding a value structure that works. Doing these value studies is a way for me to continue to simplify, to reduce, to ask myself, "Is this enough?"


When I let go of my desire to please, I feel more confident about my decisions. I feel like more options open up for me when I only have to worry about making choices for myself.


As part of #20For20ArtChallenge2022, I am reading from The Power of Daily Practice: How Creative and Performing Artists (and Everyone Else) Can Finally Meet Their Goals by Eric Maisel, PhD. Part I of the book covers 20 Elements of Practice. In this blog post series 20For20, I write about one Element every day and reflect on how to incorporate the Element into my daily painting practice.