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Eleven Steps to a Personal Victory


"What you don't do naturally, you must learn to do intentionally."--Dr. Doris Gaines Rapp

I'm a freelance artist and I don't have time that drags anywhere in my life. It's all interesting, challenging, difficult or inspiring, but whatever I'm doing with my time these days, I'm not bored and I'm frequently challenged.

This post is illustrated with the alphabet posters I've just finished. And oh! the time I spent on them! A solid month, four years ago, designing and cutting the linoleum blocks that these letters are printed from; two solid weeks of twelve and fifteen-hour days last month prepping and printing and painting these new prints.

The work this fall was done because I gathered up my courage and ran the idea past Jeanne, who curates the wonderful Artifacts Gallery in Indianapolis. Encouraged, I gathered up some more courage and set about doing fresh prints from the four-year-old blocks.

(That's where Marvin stepped in and BUILT ME A PRESS, which changed everything about the printing for the better.)

But then the process began:

  • choosing great paper
  • gathering materials
  • finding the old blocks--where had I stored them?!?
  • planning the size and spacing and cutting paper to size
  • finally printing individual letters
  • hand-painting each and every letter of two full alphabets (do the math)
  • prepping the necessary packaging
  • designing a label to put in the package
  • packaging the finished art
  • delivering same
  • setting up to print the two entire alphabets on posters, and making sure no smears or screw-ups marred it as the printing and painting was done. The previous steps apply, again.


I never allowed myself to write that list until now. A process with many steps is a process I tend to avoid.
It's partly that a list of steps hints at a daunting amount of time to be spent, but there's more to it. A multi-step project depends on the success of each individual step. To me, any ambiguity in the instructions, or any doubt I may have about my expertise, stirs uncertainty into the mixture with each added step, and the uncertainty multiplies exponentially as the process goes on. If I had doubt about an early step, the entire endeavor feels like building a skyscraper on a foundation of Jello.

This explains my checkered history with chemistry lab experiments, where I got the result right only in the unlikely event I got the steps right. And my failures with French cooking, and spotty history with bread baking. Confidence leaks out of my heart as the list of steps in a project lengthens.

Those of us with an introspective bent see patterns in our lives, or think we see patterns. I say what I'm about to say cautiously, because many of us have a tendency to beat ourselves up. We get stuck in traffic and, by the time we arrive late for our meeting, have convinced ourselves that we're always tardy because we're irresponsible. That's not helpful, and we all need to QUIT IT! There's a difference between recognizing a pattern and judging ourselves for our patterns.

But here's what I will say: where I notice a life pattern, I do well to take steps (intentional pun) to push myself, gently, into situations where I might, maybe, overcome it. I want to teach more workshops and seminars--I'll look up the phone number for the Toastmasters here in town. I'm not promising I'll call them, but I'll put myself in a position where it's more likely that I will. I approached the Artifacts Gallery and Jeanne's interest in my prints put me neatly in a position where I had to make them, however many steps were necessary!

That's why these alphabet posters are a personal victory for me. Check them out at the Artifacts Gallery in Indianapolis--you'll enjoy your visit there, for sure: ArtifactsIndy.com

For more information on the printing process, there's a short film in the works by MrMovieMaker.com, aka Marvin, that shows the printing process. It will be available for viewing soon.

You'll also be able to get these lovely (if I do say so myself) letter prints from my website. They aren't up in my store yet, so if you want them now, contact me through my website, MaryCoonsDesigns.com Price is $40 for each letter; includes shipping. Thank you.



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