Feeling uninspired? You just need some homework!

Yes, I said homework. No, I’m not crazy.

When I finished university I found myself feeling a little low after going from being in the same studio every day with the same people for final year, to being out in the big world holding on to my piece of paper (where is my BFA, anyway?) that represented the past six years of my life. I think a lot of us felt this way. Several months after graduation in 2012, I met up with some old classmates and we discussed how many of us felt a bit lost immediately after school. I went from feeling so fulfilled from the amount of work I was creating to suddenly working full time and not having the same art related community around me that I was used to.

My set up at the KPU 2012 grad show
My paintings installed at the KPU 2012 grad show

I moved into my first place of my own. It was a 2 bedroom basement suite in East Vancouver for $650, and it was all mine. I had a whole room (a small room, but still a room) to call a studio, and looking back I sure didn’t make the best use out of it I could. I did a sad thing and spent 8 months not putting much thought into art. Why, you ask? Because I had lost that drive to create that I had when I was working near other artists. I didn’t have any deadlines, I didn’t have a critique to attend the next week, I didn’t have any expectations set out for me. Now, it was up to me.

I thought about what it was that I was missing. Why did I go from being in an art show at least once a month, to having a studio that was grossly under utilized? I questioned the point of creating something that potentially gets put into the closet the day after finishing. I needed an assignment. I needed homework.

Previously, I was creating art 5 days a week. When I found art show opportunities online, I almost always had something already created that I could submit, very often pieces I completed for school. That was it! That was what I was missing. In school, you get an assignment. You get told to make a piece about something transient and ephemeral. You get told to make a piece about yourself. You get told to make a piece about the materials you choose to use. You have deadlines. You have critique. You’re engaged, committed and held accountable to your art. This was it.

Where could I find homework? Vancouver has several art galleries that post artist calls to the public with little or no cost to submit. I looked on websites of some of the galleries and organizations I knew had mandates of supporting local artists and immediately got my groove back. Just like that, you have a theme you are challenged to represent through your own work. Just like that, you have deadlines. Just like that, you have someone looking at your work.

I’ve been asked before where I find artist calls, so I want to share with you some of my faves. Comment and let me know where you find artist calls too!

Hot Art Wet City – a super chill art gallery on Main and 6th. Home to the famous Carded! and Hot One Inch Action shows, it’s always a fun time with wacky illustrations, cheap drinks and cool people. They also do comedy and life drawing events. There’s only one posting up as of today, but usually they have more.

North Vancouver Community Arts Council – Although that link has a few exhibition spaces, I really enjoy CityScape, a pretty space in North Van near the quay that is run by the NVAC. The gallery is well known for its popular annual Anonymous Art Show, an exhibition of 8″x8″ original pieces all sold for $100. Only lightly juried, this is a great opportunity to show a small piece and have it seen by more people than you can imagine being in one space in one night. They have several calls during the year for different themed shows for a low submission fee, and also have open calls for exhibition idea submissions.

Surrey Art Gallery – If you haven’t seen this gallery, please, go see it. If you’re in Vancouver, I promise it is worth the Skytrain ride. They host internationally acclaimed artists, interactive displays, fantastic artist talks and give informative and entertaining curator’s tours. The Surrey Arts Council puts on their annual ARTS show in the gallery and post their call for submissions in the link above.

Alliance for Arts and Culture – This website is an amazing resource for anyone in the arts. In addition to a classifieds section where galleries, theatres and other venues post calls for artists, there are also volunteer and paid work opportunities listed as well.

Those are just a few of the many galleries in the Lower Mainland that you can look to for inspiration. I particularly enjoy going to Hot Art Wet City’s page when I am feeling like I haven’t been the most productive, and choosing from their usually large selection of themes and just going with it. From David Suzuki to “Year of the Sheep” to a celebration of the F-word, there’s always something quirky going on, and hey – they all have deadlines!

Another idea is to try Googling local sketchbook challenges and projects. Often times there is something going on in real time that you can participate in with other artists from afar. Social media can play a big role in keeping you motivated through this. I’m feeling motivated just writing about this, and I think come May I am going to look for a 30 day challenge for myself. I’ll share it, of course, and maybe if I’m lucky one of you will join me in it.

Have fun, and let me know if you have any galleries or resources I could add to the list that will never end!

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