"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right."
This is one of my favorite quotes. I really believe this is true. If you think you can, then you will be more likely to succeed. If you think you can't, then you have pretty much already defeated yourself. The mind is a powerful thing.
I have to confess that occasionally I slip back into the dark side of thinking "I can't". Not too long ago there was a request for qualifications for a public art project here in Boise for the outside of a City Hall wall that is being renovated.
I looked at the information and decided I wouldn't apply for several reasons. First, it was an outdoor project and I work with fabric that is not permanent. Second, I don't have the experience. Lastly, and probably the biggest factor, was that I didn't have any ideas for it.
To clarify, a request for qualifications is different than a request for proposal. For qualifications, they just want your background info. (i.e. resumé) and images of your artwork and a letter explaining your interest in the project. For a proposal, they actually want to see the design that you plan to make for the project.
I did not apply for that public art project, but I did apply for another small project that involves artwork on panels on a fence downtown. I thought I could do that project because it was small. It was still outdoors, but I could see how I could translate my abstract designs by painting a wood or metal panel. In other words, I had some ideas and believed that I could do it.
I did not get chosen for that project. However, Karen Bubb, the public arts manager for the city (and who I know from taking the public art workshop last year), asked me if I would mind if she took my application from the fence project and just submit it for the City Hall project. I said, "Sure." while in my head I was thinking "Why not? Nothing is going to come from it."
Imagine my surprise when some time later (after I had no further thoughts about that project and had put it out of my mind) I received an email stating that I had been chosen as one of four finalists for the City Hall project. I was shocked! And I had a bit of a panic attack wondering how the heck was I going to be able to come up with a design and figure out how to write a proposal and give a presentation!
After I calmed down and realized that now I had to do this, I started with step one. I reread all the information I had about the project and tried to get a sense of what they were looking for. I went back to my application for the fence project to see what images I had submitted and what the selection panel had seen. From that, and taking into account that the project was for City Hall, I was able to come up with an idea.
Thankfully, I had taken the public art workshop and had people from the class that I could contact who worked with metal. I met with Mark Baltes to see if my design would be possible to fabricate in metal within the given budget. The answer was yes and he gave me some other ideas of what could be done in metal. I went home and refined my design. Working with Mark, I was able to get bids for the fabrication.
Then, I went back and reviewed the book I bought for the workshop and information we received to help me write the budget and proposal. It really was one step at a time and took quite a bit of time since it was the first time I had done any of this "for real".
In working on the proposal, I realized I need a better drawing program on my computer. I knew the other finalists had more experience in creating proposals and would probably have nice graphics. I did the best I could with what I had (Photoshop Elements). Here's a small example:
When the proposal was all completed and turned in, I started work on a presentation board for my speech to the committee. I really had no idea what I was doing but just did something that would try to help the committee visualize what the final design would look like (because most of the committee members were City Hall staff or others that were not necessarily in a creative field). Here's how it turned out:
This is almost a full sheet of foam core.
I practiced and practiced what I would say because I knew I would be super nervous giving the presentation. I was and it didn't go as well as I had hoped, but in the end I think I did a pretty good job explaining the idea.
They did not chose my idea. But I am glad I was forced to go through the process and I have learned a lot for the next time. And now I can see possibilities for working with metal.
I am thankful that Karen believed in me and my artwork enough to submit my application. I originally thought that I couldn't do a project like that and now I know I could. So, maybe the quote needs to be changed a little to say something like, "Even if you think you can't, you probably can."
The other moral to the story: Don't panic, take one step at a time.