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  • Writer's pictureSue Bulmer

Twelve things I learned from my year long creative project




Throughout 2023, as you will know as I have talked about it a LOT, I embarked on a journey of creativity and personal growth by undertaking a year-long project of making handmade sketchbooks from one piece of paper each month, which I then filled with seasonal inspiration. Sharing #myconcertinasketchbookyear on social media and creating the online course "Creative Soul Sketchbooks" has been transformative, not just for my creative business but for my creative life.

Making art for the soul, not the sale changed the way I saw and experienced my creative process and purpose. I feel like I was able to connect with others, inspire and guide them, which in turn has had a huge impact on me. I’ve been looking back during the last few months since completing the project, sharing each sketchbook on social media and I’ve been thinking about what this year has meant for me.


Spending time reflecting helped me to come up with a list of twelve things I learned as a result of #myconcertinasketchbookyear. I want to share this as I know lots of you are taking up the 100dayproject this year and I think my musings on a long term creative project might just help you keep going.


Courage:

Embarking on a year-long creative project required a leap of faith and courage. It meant stepping away from the familiar and embracing the unknown. Through each month's sketchbook, I found the courage to experiment, to fail, and to learn and grow. This courage empowered me to take risks in my creative practice and to trust in the process of exploration and discovery.


Consistency:

Committing to creating a new sketchbook every month demanded consistency and discipline. It taught me the importance of showing up, even on days when inspiration seemed to be in hiding. Consistency breeds progress, and through this project, I learned to trust in the cumulative impact of small, consistent efforts over time, the baby steps, maybe mixing a colour or making a mark, they all added up. I still can’t believe how that pile of sketchbooks has grown from the first one to the great big pile it is now!


Colour Learning:

Each sketchbook became a canvas for exploring the vibrant palette of the seasons. From the wintry pastels of January to lush greens of spring and then the fiery hues of autumn, I immersed myself in the language of colour. This journey of colour learning not only enriched my artistic practice but also deepened my appreciation for the beauty and diversity of the natural world and a renewed appreciation for those colours I was less keen on. March (purple and yellow) I see you!! Browns of October I see you too and I love you more for this process.


Connection:

Sharing my creative process on social media opened the door to meaningful connections with people from around the globe. Through the magic of digital platforms, I found kindred spirits who shared my passion for creativity and self-expression. These connections reminded me of the power of art to transcend geographical boundaries and unite us all in the shared experience of art.


Collaboration:

Collaborating with fellow artists and creators added richness and depth to my creative journey. Whether through joint projects, guest features on podcasts, or through mutual support, I discovered the joy of co-creation and the endless possibilities that emerge when we come together in creative collaboration. This project enabled the collaboration I am now undertaking with fellow artist Sam Waters, where we each made a sketchbook and send it back and forward to each other in the post. You can read more about that here and here. Through this collaboration I have made a new friend and I feel very excited at the opportunities that are possible. We have new exciting ideas in the pipeline. We are meeting on March 4th on IG live to discuss.


Cohesive:

As the months unfolded, I found myself weaving a cohesive narrative through my sketchbooks: my love of nature and it's seasons. Themes emerged (seasons and colours), motifs recurred (moons and circles), and a sense of harmony began to permeate my work. This journey of cohesion taught me the importance of intentionality and storytelling in creating a unified body of work. I’m so pleased with what I made.


Continuous:

Creativity is a journey, not a destination. Through this project, I embraced the idea of continuous growth and evolution. Each sketchbook became a chapter in an ongoing path of self-discovery and creative exploration, reminding me that there are always new horizons to explore and new heights to reach. In fact, at times I wondered whether I should just keep going into 2024 as I enjoyed the process so much. It has proved so popular with others that it was very tempting. But I’m glad I’ve given myself time to reflect on the journey so I can think clearly about what I’d like to do this year. Taking the time has really helped inform what comes next.


Collage:

Integrating collage elements into my sketchbooks opened up a world of possibility and playfulness. Collage became a metaphor for the creative process itself—combining disparate elements to form something new and unexpected. This playful approach to artmaking infused my work with spontaneity and delight and it particularly brought the months of May, July and August to life. I think they are some of my favourite sketchbooks of the whole series.


Creating the online course "Creative Soul Sketchbooks" seemed a natural extension of my journey. It allowed me to share lessons learned and insights gained from my year-long project with a wider audience as well as being able to share knowedge from the world of Art Therapy, my other passion. Teaching became a (very surprising) source of fulfillment and joy, reaffirming my newfound passion for inspiring and empowering others on their creative journeys. Speaking as someone who used to HATE any form of public speaking this is a real life changer for me and has helped me change the course of my creative business to a totally new and exciting direction.


Community:

Above all, this project reinforced the importance of community in nurturing creativity. Whether online or offline, I found encouragement, support, inspiration and friendship in the creative community. Together, we celebrated victories, shared stories and challenges, and we lifted each other up along the way. Seeing this community grow made me feel so proud that the project that came out of my own head has helped, supported, inspired and connected so many other people across the world.


Commitment:

This project taught me the value of commitment—to myself, to my creativity, and to my dreams. Through the highs and lows of the creative process, I remained committed to making this project work, keeping an open mind throughout, taking the rough (purple and yellow tested my mettle) with the smooth and seeing something which I had never imagined I would be able to do, all the way through to the end. The year previous I had balked at the idea of starting the 100 day project as I didn't think I would be able to finish it. Who knew that less than 12 months later I'd be charting my own course through a project that lasted 365 days!!


Contentment:

Ultimately, this year-long journey has led me to a place of contentment and gratitude. Gratitude for the lessons learned, the connections made, and the growth experienced along the way. In the quiet moments of reflection of the two months that followed, I have found contentment in knowing that we are all creative and creativity has the power to brighten our lives, connect us to each other, and give us a sense of peace and wholeness that truly enriches our lives. It really has contributed to helping me live my best creative life and has given me the vision for my creative direction into the future. Who knew it would lead me on such a journey? Certainly not me!!


If you're thinking of commencing on a long creative project or you've started a challenge and your motivation and momentum are wavering, keep on going. You never know where it might lead you....



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2 Comments


Rosemary Duly
Rosemary Duly
Mar 15

Watching you online helped me to see how you can foster creativity through experimentation. I don’t make concertina books, but I am working into a sketch book of mad ideas…lots of obsessive reworking of patterns and lines, and colours. I’m not sure exactly why I’m doing it, but a few months in, I’m beginning to see patterns and trends. I previously thought a sketchbook could only be about observational drawing, so seeing yours evolve was a big eye opener. Thank you

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Sue Bulmer
Sue Bulmer
Mar 16
Replying to

Ah that's amazing to hear. I love it when people are inspired after watching me work. Keep it up Rosemary and keep being reflective.

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