Crystal Moody is a former art and math teacher. In December of 2013 she was inspired by her 4 year-old daughter’s huge pile of artwork. She challenged herself to build her own creative habits by doing one little thing each day.
In 2014 she made a drawing every day, often photographing it with her breakfast. In 2015, she is painting each day. She writes about habits and the creative process to help others live their own year of creative habits.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong Crystal. Please describe your art to Artist Strong readers.
Lately I’ve been most interested in the idea of layers and the way that time is represented through layers. A good example of that is how sedimentary rocks are formed. As I’ve worked on my painting skills and style this year, I’ve searched for meaning within my work and that is the idea that has most resonated with me.
My paintings are made up of little chunks of time, day after day, that slowly build into something. I’m starting to focus on subjects that clearly show layers and the passage of time such as this agate series I’m working on.
Carrie: I really resonate with your decision and commitment to make art every day. When and how did you come to that decision?
In late 2013 someone innocently asked me “what’s next for you?” For some reason that question really struck me like I should have some big project or plan. I didn’t and that got me trying to find something.
Later I was sorting through my daughter’s artwork and it hit me. She makes a few things each day. Some of it turns out awesome but most of it we recycle. I realized that was a pretty good way to work. So I set up this challenge for myself to create every day and called it year of creative habits.
Carrie: What’s the hardest part about committing to your art every day?
There have been lots of hard parts along the way and it changes often but right now the hardest part is finding myself spending so much of my time on tasks that aren’t creating, such as social media, site updates, email, responding to comments, etc. These are often necessary (and sometimes even rewarding) tasks but there’s still only so many hours in the day and I’d like to keep the focus on painting.
Also it’s summer here and my kids are out of school. I’m finding that enjoying what’s left of our summer vacation often takes priority and that’s ok. It won’t be much longer. I try to remember to just take lots of photos and have lots of adventures because soon the kids will be in school and the weather will turn and I’ll have lots of inspiration for new paintings.
Carrie: What’s been easy or surprising about the experience?
I found that after I got going, to go an entire year or longer creating every single day was easier than I thought. Once it’s habit it’s not that hard. The surprising part has been that people are probably less interested in my art and more interested in what I have to say about the process. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.
Carrie: Have you always been interested in the arts? When did you first realize your love of art?
Yes I’ve always been into art but I haven’t always created.. As an older kid I started to think I wasn’t good enough at it and that as a “smart kid” I should be more serious about my studies. In high school I didn’t let myself take art classes until my last semester, only after all I already had all my credits and had been admitted to college.
My sophomore year of college, I decided to take just one design class for fun. It was during that class that I realized maybe I could hold my own with the art majors. I changed my major after that course but I still wouldn’t let myself go all the way with it.
Instead of commercial art which was what I really wanted, I chose art education. I knew I could get a job as a teacher so that seemed like the right thing to do. For me, art has always been wrapped in fear and the feeling of not being good enough.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
For a long time, my workspace was our dining table which we never used for dining anyway. We used it for homeschool and my art. This year, we did some rearranging in our home and I now have a designated studio.
We bought a wood door and put that on top of our dining table base to make a much larger table for my work. I have some shelving from IKEA that I use to display my finished paintings. I have an old dresser that we pulled in from the curb when our neighbors moved out. I painted it and lined the drawers with old maps and now that holds my supplies. I have lots of windows, great natural light, and a fireplace that I paint next to in the winter. It’s a really fantastic space and I’m so lucky that my family gave up this room for me.
A photographer friend of mine recently took some photos of my studio for me and those are here → http://crystalmoody.com/yoch/2/studio-tour.
Carrie: What subjects are you drawn to in your art?
My subjects bounce around a lot from landscapes to abstract to animals but I’m most interested in how time is recorded in nature…like the rings of a tree, the weathering of an object, or the sediments that create rock.
When I paint my rescue dogs, I’m drawn toward the ones that have scars both physical and emotional and the stories behind those scars. I’m really into maps and calendars and the other ways that humans record the passage of time and the events of the world.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
I’m not as set in a routine now as I was when I began with creative habits. And because I try a lot of new (to me) subjects, media, and ideas, my process is always changing. I think that’s what keeps it interesting—NOT having a set process.
I do have set process for my Fursday paintings because I’ve been doing those for 30 weeks now. It’s a commitment that I’ve made to do 50 paintings for two local rescues and so I need that routine in order to follow through with my commitment.
For those, I begin by choosing a dog. I make my selection based on the photos that are available, the story of the dog, and a connection I feel for a particular dog. I do all my Fursday paintings on 6×6 wood panels. I draw out the profile of the dog’s head and then gesso in that area, leaving the background so that it shows the natural wood.
Sometimes I’ll paint a base coat color and other times I’ll just begin with the white gesso. I pencil in the eyes, nose, and areas of light and shadow. It makes sort of a contour map. I almost always limit myself to 5 color or less and I try to include one color that is unexpected. Then I start mixing and painting. Since I’ve already drawn in the areas of light and dark with pencil, it becomes sort of a paint by number for me.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
First I remind myself that feeling stuck is part of the creative process. I try not to let it get to me too much. That doesn’t always work but I’m getting better about it. Taking a break and getting outside usually helps me. I also keep what I call helper habits which are habits that help my creative habits like reading, hiking, artist dates, etc.
One of my favorite things to do is study my creative family tree. In Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist, he recommends studying one of your favorite artists to find out who inspires them. Then study that artist and continue to climb up your creative family tree. If I’m feeling particularly stuck, I’ll choose a new artist to study and pretty soon I’ll find myself on a new branch, working on something new.
Carrie: Who inspires you?
My kids inspired me to begin and they continue to inspire me. The ease at which they create is a good reminder to not take things too seriously. I’m inspired by the artists that I’ve studied for my creative family tree especially Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. I also love Lisa Congdon’s work, the breadth of what she does, how much creates, and her willingness to help other artists.
Carrie: Name one creative resource you can’t live without.
Instagram. I love seeing the peeks into other artists’ processes and their personal lives. It’s fascinating to follow both seasoned artists and those just starting out, artists from all over the world and just see how we are all so alike yet so different.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
I think of creativity as approaching something in a unique way. I’m not sure that it’s something you can really study or understand so I don’t really think about it or focus on trying to be creative. I just focus on creating. That’s what I enjoy; I’m a maker. I figure the more I make, the better I’ll get, and the more opportunities I’ll have at being creative.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you committed to a daily artist practice? Why or why not? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.
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