Crystal MoodyA Year of Creative Habits


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My guest today is Crystal Moody, an artist from Missouri, in the U.S.A. Having begun her career as an art teacher, then switched to teaching maths, which she enjoyed more. There is only one right answer in Maths, so grading is easier. But when a move forced her to give that up, she started doing art in pockets of time home with the kids. However, she didn’t feel like she was making enough of her potential art time and so she set herself a project called A Year of Creative Habits.

What you will learn in this episode:

• How Crystal’s first Year of Creative Habits Project began in 2014
• The subsequent Year of Creative Habits Projects in 2015, 2016 and 2017
• The other related projects that Crystal manages or has coming up
• Tips for finding inspiration and keeping track of ideas
• Crystal’s favourite creative tools and resources

A Year of Creative Habits Project

After leaving teaching, Crystal was at home with her then preschool and early elementary aged children. She felt that she had some time on her hands but wasn’t doing much with it, so she decided to do a daily creative project to try to build it into a habit. The plan was to just spend 5 – 20 minutes per day being creative, but it changed throughout the year. It ended up being a sketchbook project, where she did a drawing a day for the whole year of 2014. Not only did that project boost Crystal’s confidence in getting back into art, but it also kicked off a lot of other projects.

She started posting it online as accountability for her habit. The goal was to post it along with breakfast, so that gave her a really good deadline. Gaining followers as she went, Crystal found it was a helpful way to keep her motivated and on track. It also encouraged her to have more colourful breakfasts because they looked better in the Instagram photos! So the drawing habit also led to learning how to cook eggs 4 or 5 different ways and eating a healthier breakfast. It was a win-win!

Although the idea was a year of creative habits, and she did draw every single day, Crystal says it still didn’t feel like a habit by the end. Now in 2017, she still doesn’t feel like it’s a habit and wonders if art and creativity is different from other habits because of the fear and doubt involved. Nonetheless, by the end of that first year, Crystal had picked up a number of followers and people joined in, which helped as there is real accountability in doing it together.

A Year of Creative Habits 2014

a year of creative habits drawings

© copyright Crystal Moody

The subsequent Year of Creative Habits Projects

The following year, in 2015, Crystal decided initially to do a painting every day, but soon realized that was a little ambitious. So instead she changed it to doing 20 minutes of painting a day, without the need to finish a painting every day. She also added a weekly project where every Thursday—called Fursday—Crystal would post a portrait of a dog from a local rescue, to try to raise awareness of that cause. She also started showing her work in a couple of galleries and slowly sold a few of her artworks along with some commissioned pet portraits.

Fursday Rescue Dogs 2015

Fursday dog painting

© copyright Crystal Moody

The 2016 Creative Habit was called Monday Mornings. It was a weekly portrait project of people, usually people who had died but were in some way inspiring or had an effect in some way. It began when Crystal was reading about an inspiring old woman called Granny Henderson, and then people would send her information on relatives or friends that died. She ended up reading obituaries and finding people that way. However, 2016 was also a year that a lot of celebrities died, like Prince, so that provided a lot of Monday Mornings inspiration too.

Monday Mourning Portraits 2016

Monday mourning painting

© copyright Crystal Moody

Following on from that slightly morbid topic, the 2017 project is called Dead Artist Society. The idea came from Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like An Artist, where he talks about climbing your family tree—studying an artist, author or somebody who is dead that inspired you. Crystal likes doing research so she decided to study a dead artist each week and create work based on their life or their art. Although she hasn’t publicized it, she’s also doing all women artists, and mostly from the 1900s, as there isn’t as much artist history of women. Some examples include Agnes Martin, Alice Neel, and Sister Corita Kent. Crystal finds it fun to research, and each day she shares a fact about the artist. Then each week she creates something inspired by them, not a copy of their work but perhaps using their style or subject or colours.

Dead Artists Society 2017

dead artists society
© copyright Crystal Moody

Other related projects

As for next year’s project, Crystal won’t decide until late in the year. One idea she’s playing with is the concept of seasons of creativity—how sometimes you have lots of ideas and sometimes you have none—so probably next year’s theme will have something to do with that. She spends much more time on the creative projects now than she used to, as over the years she’s figured out her studio habits and improved her focus. She also has an iPad Pro and Pencil, so she’s been doing a lot more digital artwork now, which is handy because the lighting isn’t an issue so she can work at night.

Crystal runs a Facebook group and book club for the Year of Creative Habits, too. As a group, they choose a book about creativity and every Wednesday in the Facebook group there is a discussion thread about the next section of the book. She also helps others build their creative habits, either working with people one-on-one or through her online course, which she is now turning into a book.

Tips for finding inspiration and keeping track of ideas

When Crystal feels uninspired, she usually just keeps at it and forces herself out of it. It’s one of the reasons she feels the yearly project has worked: it keeps her going and she thinks if she didn’t set one she’d slip back to doing nothing creative. Research is also a huge part of finding inspiration for her, so she likes reading and studying, finding things that spur her on. She also finds getting a new tool or app helps, like the iPad Pro. Another trick is to go back to a previous work she enjoyed and make another one or turn it into a series.

Crystal uses a notebook with a modified bullet journal system to keep track of ideas. She puts everything into it, and finds that when an idea gets carried over month to month, it loses its pizzazz, so she tries to do ideas as soon as possible before they lose their excitement. Otherwise, she culls them!

She does have too many ideas, but finds that having the daily or weekly deadline of the Year of Creative Project helps to get her moving. However, some ideas don’t fall in that deadline so getting them done gets tricky. Crystal would like to have more than just the current project going but does wonder if maybe it’s about just doing one thing at a time.

Crystal’s favourite creative tools and resources

Although she does like her iPad Pro and Pencil, Crystal prefers a plain old bullet journal notebook. She does like sketchbooks too, but size matters—not too big and not too small.

She likes to paint with Acrylic Gouache mix paint on wood panels with the grain showing through.

She also loves to read, so books are a big inspiration. Some of her favourites are Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. Other authors she likes are Elizabeth Gilbert, Lisa Cognin and Oliver Jeffers.

Where to find Crystal

You can find all her work and projects at her main website, www.crystalmoody.com

She shares every day on Instagram under the handle @crystalmoody

You can also find information on the book club and Facebook group at the website www.ayearofcreativehabits.com