Monday, January 5, 2015

Establishing Goals and Staying Organized

 1:8 scale yukata. Hand-stitched.

Happy New Year Everyone! I will be going about things a little differently going forward. I’m hoping this will help me post a bit more consistently - especially since this year will be very busy! This comes along with the introduction of the monthly email newsletter. I want to make it clear that the content of the blog and of the email will be different. 

The monthly email will feature the current running project, which is OniSan. It will also include a brief overview of everything else I’m posting all over the webs. If you’re interested in OniSan, I recommend you sign up for the emails since most of these special updates probably won’t make it to the blog. To sign up, look to the right - there is a short form in the panel that you can fill out to join the party. :)

The blog will still have updates of other things I’m working on at the same time. Beyond just updating whenever I have a new piece to share, I’ve planned a short series of posts that will hopefully be entertaining and insightful. I hope you’ll hang around - I’m super excited to get things rolling this year!!


There are a lot of blogs and websites dedicated to New Year's Resolutions and I don't intend this to be in that vein even though timing and title would indicate the opposite. Let's face it – you aren't just starting up projects in January.

While it is neat to have a build up and launch that coincides with a new calendar year, inspiration might still be recovering from turkey dinner or funds may just not be in the cards until April's tax return comes in. You may already be bogged down with enough life changing routine alterations to make yet another set more than you can be expected to handle.

So this is for everyone starting something – in any season that suits them – one approach to starting strong and keeping things on track. I'm not saying you should immediately adopt any or all of these methods – definitely do what works for you! I'm simply sharing with you what works for me.

Firstly, I determine what it is I'm trying to accomplish. In this initial phase I'm thinking BIG, aiming high and setting that bar as far up there as I can. I'm thinking about what story I want to tell, where I want to go, all those BIG questions. I'm writing a wish list. I'm not limiting anything...yet. (Seth Godin has many excellent insights into projects as portfolios)

Secondly, I'm making another, more sobering list. It has things like budget allowances and time commitments and the inevitable “I don't know how to do that.” After making this list I'm returning to my first and modifying it. A lot of my dream projects are things that I can't do on my own, so they either have to be shelved for the time being or adjusted to fit within what I can do. (Or I factor in the time necessary to learn that skill) Of course I still want to challenge myself and each project is for a different purpose (Read Chris Oatley's blog series about project types and his podcast about Artistic Goals – they are some of my favorites!), but if I ever want to finish's got to be something I can actually finish.

Third comes milestones. I write out the finished product and back track all the steps, in exacting detail, to where I am at the moment. I learned this from a class taught by Cherish Flieder. Once I have this task list I reverse it and start looking at my calendar. If I think I can get something done quickly, I set a short deadline. If I think it needs more time to develop properly, I set the deadline out a bit. I do research on product costs, specifications and turn-around time for printers. I know what I need and when I need it and don't waste time designing something I'll need to reformat. This also comes from timing myself on similar tasks, so it takes a bit of trial and error. Never forget that you can always re-evaluate your plans, because life happens.

One of the most exciting things about starting a new project for me is next when I get to bring out my label maker and colored sharpies. I know the time I dedicate up front to get everything in place will save me hours if not days or weeks down the road.

So what is my system? For each artistic endeavor I begin with a 3 ring binder. I am a tactile individual, so I need a physical copy in addition to a digital backup - otherwise I forget about it and become hysterical when my hard drive fails. I also prefer to sketch traditionally and then scan to color in Photoshop, so it gives me a place to store those sketches as well – crystal cleared and in page protectors so the pencil doesn't get smudged.

Once I have my binder – labeled with whatever working title I have chosen for the new project – I give it a set of tab dividers. I established this system back when I was actively creating video games and attending play rehearsals, so I still label them accordingly: Cast/Dramatis Personae, Locations/Sets, Items/Props, Script, Misc.

Any work I do for the characters goes into one section, maps and environments into another, etc. When I get to Misc. that's where I stuff anything related that doesn't fall into the above – like branding or research articles. Larger projects eventually outgrow the 1” and graduate to the 3” binders – I set them up the same unless there are new requirements dictated by the project.

If my Cast tab is a red tab, then I use my red or pink highlighter/markers when writing out tasks on the calendar or taking notes relating to characters. Usually that is the case. And usually Environments fall under green, scripts under blue, items under orange and misc under yellow. 

While I try to advocate for eco-friendly products like cork boards, I prefer a sheet of Styrofoam to pin things to – mood boards and sketches alike - for reference and critique. I've had the same three sheets (Purchased at a hardware store, about 2'x4', very cheap) for at least 6+ years and they're still in great condition. They are white – usually like my studio walls - so they don't distract from the work. They are easily mounted with T pins or can "float" so if I'm pondering a design while making dinner I can bring a board in to glance at while not cutting up my fingers. 

I match my digital files to my hard copies – color wise, labeling, etc. I regularly use Open Office (Because it's free and compatible with Microsoft Office) and Google Apps – Calendar, Drive, etc. Trello and FileMaker are my favorite task trackers.

In terms of general research organization, while I don't have every dinosaur divided up by their scientific names...I do something similar with my fashion plates. Everything is divided neatly into countries, time periods/movements, and income levels. (So I can better navigate trends) I've also started using Pintrest more in this regard – so I don't have to take up the space on my hard drive.

I can find all the physical items at Office Max, Staples, or Office Depot – really any office supply store unless otherwise indicated – for fairly cheap.

What do you think? Do you have any methods for your project organization? How do you set goals? I'd love to hear them in the comments!

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