This is it. It has been one year since I embarked on my Finding the Framework challenge. I would say that I had no idea what I was signing up for on Oct 1st, 2015. But let’s be real. I knew this would be a comprehensive and exhausting creative challenge. I’ve pushed myself as hard this year as any year during my undergraduate career, pursuing projects that were well beyond my comfort zone.
While I feel that I could have gone further with many of these projects, I’ve come to terms with the fact that a year is still a finite length of time. I’ve explored a wide range of avenues of artistic projects, and have ended up with a much clearer picture of where my strengths and interests lie than I had a year ago.
I’ll spend some time in the next few months synthesizing my experiences pursuing different artistic fields, but here at the 1 year mark, I’d like to briefly overview each category, and rate how successful I think each challenge was:
1. Write a novel – 8/10
Last November, I completed a 50,000 word manuscript as part of National Novel Writing Month. I’ve written similar projects before, and thoroughly enjoy the intensive one month writing project. However, I know the draft has a number of plot holes and stylistic flaws. I didn’t invest time in rewrites, and while I know I’ll be writing more prose fiction manuscripts, I don’t anticipate them reaching a professional level any time soon.
2. Write a full-length play – 10/10
This is my jam. Writing roadmaps for living, thinking people to play with and put into action in real time and space is a place where so many of my creative drives overlap. I wrote a play Baikonur to complete thins challenge, which I’ve submitted to some workshops and am also revising on my own. Buuut, just for good measure I also wrote the 50 minute show Outside the Lines, and the short plays Road Rage, Unknowingly Agnostic, Waiting for Kyle, Give Me the Chicken and a collection of monologues for both Caution: Not a Step and Find Your Backyard.
3. Perform in a play – 10/10
I performed in a 2 week run of Deirdre of the Sorrows at the Dairy Arts Center, for 2 weeks of my solo show Outside the Lines in the Boulder International Fringe Festival, and in short runs of Find Your Backyard, Caution: Not a Step, and Five 5ths of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. I realized during Outside the Lines, though- I’m really not looking for a career as an actor. I am capable of acting, and sometimes I enjoy it. But performing night after night onstage in major roles takes a huge amount of energy from me, and I know it’s not something I could sustain for a routine work schedule. I will continue to end up on stage, but realizing that stage acting is not going to be my primary artistic pursuit has really helped to hone down my focus for future projects.
4. Perform in a dance showcase – 6/10
If I had world enough and time… This year started off well. Back when I sat at my desk job, swimming in tens of dollars of expendable income, I could pay for aerial dance classes in my free evenings, and jazz dance classes during my lunch breaks. And then I began to get more serious about my artistic pursuits. The expendable income went away as I began sinking money into producing shows. And the free evenings went away as I began designing costumes and teching shows. And then the lunch breaks went away as I transitioned to freelance work. And so the dance went away, and I was left rehearsing my movement pieces alone in apartment with no appropriate dance flooring.
But gosh darn it, I performed my dance piece anyways. There was music, I moved around in a relatively coordinated manner, and people clapped at the end. That’s all that matters, right? Caution: Not a Step was honestly much better received at the Ft. Collins Fringe than I thought it would be, and this was definitely an activity that stretched my boundaries as an artist.
5. Produce a show – 10/10
Prior to this challenge, I had only officially produced 2 theatrical events outside of college- one staged reading, and a one-night only dinner theater show. Now, in the past 6 months alone, I have produced a 30 minute dance theater showcase (Caution: Not a Step), a 50 minute play (Outside the Lines), a 75 minute variety show (Find Your Backyard), and a 10 minute act for a fundraiser (Give Me the Chicken). Now that I’ve realized that I possess all the tools to make original live entertainment happen, I have a feeling the fun is only just beginning.
6. Produce a music album – 7/10
To stick to the original challenge, yes, I teamed up with composer Nigel Deane to create a soundtrack for Outside the Lines. And by that, I mean I threw some ideas and words at Nigel, and he came back with fully formed auditory masterpieces. But hey, team effort, right?
But, in the world of audio production, this year I realized another major field where my various interests overlap. Audiobook production. I took a class on audiobook narration starting the first week of this challenge, and it caught my attention. One year later, I’m finishing up the editing on my 10th audiobook title. I had never even thought that it was a plausible freelance gig to pursue, but all it took was a little creative push and some support, and now I have a whole new avenue of creative projects.
7. Create a webcomic – 4/10
I absolutely love comics. I now also realize how much time, effort, and creative energy they take to routinely produce. And patience, big time. Technically, I did create a webcomic this year- Best Fiends. However, I have only completed 5 strips, and haven’t developed any routines or patterns for consistent drawing and posting like I had hoped to. But through my research and attempts, I have a much better understanding of the process of creating webcomics, and certainly have more practice than I did before this year.
8. Create a short film – 5/10
I had really hoped to spend a week out in the sand dunes shooting a short post-apocalyptic comedy with actor friends from around the country. I had kind of hoped to spend a weekend in an empty office building filming a comedic short about internships. I had vaguely been interested in drawing strange cartoon hedgehogs on old brown paper packaging and animating them to music. But then I got sucked into all my other projects and put all my resources into show producing. So I ended up with some eclectic promotional videos instead, like this one. and this one.
I hope to put together at least one more project from footage and ideas I got from this year. But for the time being, you can also have a link to the Five 5ths of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth footage as consolation.
9. Display an artwork at a gallery – 2/10
Yeah… about the whole “gallery” thing. I’m not going to pretend that I can casually teach myself to be a successful visual artist from a couple of books and youtube videos. I had kind of planned to just display an artwork in a nearby community arts collective on one of their open studio nights. And then I stopped by one of their events and realized that a lot of their events were centered around talking through their experiences with mind-altering substances and sharing paintings of flowers resembling genitalia. Thanks, Boulder.
Ironically, I now actually work part-time in a building with several galleries, and talk through art with paintings and have actually made a couple of sales. I’m refining plans for a collection of sarcastic art jokes masquerading as a gallery, but I couldn’t rush through it enough to fit it within the official year of the project. Stay tuned though!
10. Learn to make macarons – 8/10
I am so glad I added this challenge on to the end of the list. Honestly, I think this was the category that I had the most growth in. I started at a skill level of absolute zero as far as macarons were concerned, with my first batch ending up as sticky, almond-flavored glop. Now I have the process down to a relative habit, and can whip up a batch with little effort, complete with a custom maple-brown syrup filling.
On top of these official challenges, I have also ended up fully submerged in all the arts world related activities that falls between the lines of the categories I laid out. It’s a little ridiculous how much things have changed. At the start of the challenge, I was an assistant at a small publishing company who did performing arts on the side. Now, I’m a freelance artist working for a number of the region’s big arts groups for a living. In the past year, I have been paid to work as a costumer, carpenter, welder, props manager, stage manager, actor, producer, playwright, director, stagehand, lighting technician, sound engineer, projection designer, makeup artist, house manager, and box office manager. I’ve taken some substantial risks, failed spectacularly a number of times, and racked up a huge pile of rejections. But letting go and leaping into the unknown has led me to a crazy new life as a fully fledged member of the artistic community. I still have a long way to go, but I really can say: I found the framework.