The First Mile

As the sun rises, you check off your first two items in preparation for your big race: 1. Appropriate gear: running shoes and a light-weight tank top and short shorts 2. Stretches. Then, you start to mentally prepare for the race ahead. In the 5K race (3.1 miles) which is a typical cross-country course, you begin to think about your tactics for competing in the race. With your art job or assignment you begin to think about the stages it will take to complete your project. What are the tactics of runners that will help you win/finish your art project successfully?

Frame Of Mind.
There are always good ways to run your race and bad ways to run it. You want to consider your options before you put your foot on the start line. I was always a slow runner. I am naturally contemplative. I like to think a lot. I was never the fast one, but I always finished the race running. I won a couple of ribbons in competitions, but mostly I just ran. That was because I could focus on the finish line.

Run In Stretches.
What I recommend is what I learned from those cross country days--consider the race as a whole. You need to keep your legs moving and your mind on the race. You need to consider each mile completed as a separate achievement. Gradually increase your speed as you go. Do not become stagnant in your competition. Eventually push yourself to your top speed at the end.

The Long-Distance Commitment.
What I do not recommend is darting off the start line at 100 yard dash speed. I know runners from my cross country years in high school who completely missed the point of running a race. They completely overlooked the fact that foot races are a long-distance commitment. When the gun goes off they would sprint off the line for the first mile. Often these guys were more fit than me. They were often taller and thinner. In my opinion, better equipped than myself to run these long distances. These "jack rabbits" as we called them may have put a good scare on the competition, initially, but then they burned out quick. What good is that in a long distance race?

Consider your art project as a long-distance race. Some may in fact be very short term in the scope of your life, but art is a discipline like any other sport. I am recommending that you look at your project in stages or in stretches. Think through and prioritize your process in a plan (a later post). You want to keep your project moving. Consider the pace that you need to keep to be strong in every stretch of the race. There will be times that you can relax your pace, but there will also be times to surge ahead. The best tact that I have learned is to pick short goals and to seek to surpass them quickly. You are in a race, so you can't slow down. Keep this in mind as you figure out how to win your prize for finishing your art project.



I can't emphasize the importance of stretching enough. In a road race you know the race won't go well if you start to cramp up or if your muscles start hurting. When you take that extra time to prepare it makes all the difference in how you run the race.

Prepare To Create Your Best Work.
Creating art is not any different than a sport in this respect. Without the right tools you may never make the best art you could. Not everyone is right for that tool. But then there is the comfort level with that tool or process. You have to use it to be good at it.

Stretching Is Learning.
That tool and process is ink and inking. I have practiced it for more than 10 years. It obviously did not come naturally. My initial understanding of inking was with a ball point pen. Some of the stretching that had to be done was to figure out what the tool was used for. I had to figure out which tools work best for different kinds of looks. I have to practice using that skill every chance I get. As I stretch myself I learn more potential and learn more of what I don't know about it.

Take at least 15 minutes a day before you start your serious project to stretch your ability. With inking I start with blue line pencil drawings of all different kinds of objects, people, different lighting situations, and compositions. Then, I practice all the different techniques and styles I like. Some pieces come out exquisitely, most do not. Think of skills that you want to learn and for it. I know you will improve if you just stretch!


Short Shorts

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? 
Run in such a way as to get the prize. -I Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)

Creating art is like running a race. Like all sports running requires practise, practise, practise! You also have to have the right gear (running shoes, shorts, light shirt, etc...), stretch, think tactically, prepare for your competitors and the course, know when to refresh, think about your finish, and fueling your imagination to win.

In high school cross country we had to wear the most embarrassing uniforms of all the sports teams. They had to be a couple of decades out of date by the time my class got to wear this badge of honor. As a low profile sport, my high school felt little need to invest in any new trendy uniforms. We wore what we called skimpies. You can guess why they got that name.

We all hated these uniforms, but you know what? There came a time when I would not trade those shorts in for anything else. After several years of running during the hot hot summers in Indiana, I was grateful for this less restricting apparel. And their came a time that I longed for the school year so that I could once again feel as if I were flying. Any dedicated runner would know what I am talking about.

Try as you might, without the right gear making visual art can be hard. If you paint in oil, cheap paint may make it difficult create the atmosphere that you long for. If you are a photographer, the wrong lighting in your studio could mess with your photos and your exposure will come out wrong. Or if your a cartoonist like myself, your inking brushes could cause difficulty in creating the sharp yet varied line you want to make.The truth is that dedicated people will do what it takes to become excellent at their skills or profession.

Do your best work! Don't skimp on the supplies. You may go through a practise period that you can justify cheaper material, but eventually you will want to reach for a higher level and improve your skill.  You're a creative person after all and if you can't justify the extra dollars and cents to prove to yourself and everybody else that you're worth it, then you might want to consider a new profession or hobby. So, consider the gear that will make your art soar and hone your craft with that. I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed.