October Game 2013 Wrap-up


So October has come and gone, and the Bill Counts October Game is done. I only missed one day because of the stomach bug, and only because I completely forgot there was such a thing as an October painting challenge and went to bed at 8:30. We had fewer active participants this year, but there was some truly beautiful artwork created, and it was again a wonderful experience to play the game with other artists. As with last year, I came out of the challenge with some new friendships and a feeling of real accomplishment.

This year my goal was to do all physical art (as opposed to digital as I did last year), so I did 30 paintings. I did mostly watercolor, and found it much easier and enjoyable than I remembered. I even worked in a few oil paintings which were slightly less frustrating than my experience last year.

For me, however, the challenge is less in the actual art development – my skills grew a little bit, possibly- but more in sorting out priorities. This is a ridiculous challenge. Start and finish a complete work of art every day for a month. At least, it seems like it should be ridiculous. Like my whole life should be turned on end. But this is the third year I’ve done it – and really it wasn’t. My house wasn’t any messier or dirtier than normal. My kids were still fed. We still managed the usual home school activities. I got a typical amount of sleep. Challenges like this just show you how easy it really is to shift things around to make room for what is important.

Tomorrow, the comic is back on it’s usual schedule (updates Tuesday and Thursday). Wednesday I’ll be announcing my NEXT challenge. Stay tuned.


In yet another iteration of my website philosophy I am condensing the October Game art into a single gallery. Here ya go:


Game Prep 2013

clay pot

For the last two years I have played Bill Counts October Game – this year I’m doing it again! The first year I tried oil painting and pastels and pencils and such. I had high hopes for the same last year, but ended up doing digital art instead because it was easier to manage with the kids – and less frustrating for me to make the art look good. This year, I’ve thought way ahead and I’ve been practicing with oils. Not spectacular – but hey, I wouldn’t be doing a challenge like this if I didn’t need the help. If you missed the Game last year – it’s a personal challenge of 31 completed original pieces in the 31 days of October. Head over to the FaceBook Page to sign up! (brown smears on the above painting added by 3-year-old James, in case you were wondering.)

October Game – 2012

Let’s Start October!

I thought I’d kick off The October Game today by dragging out an old photo of my sister and I trick-or-treating to get me in the October mood. I’ve always thought of this photo as representing my sister and I in our “bunny” costumes, but now that I’m looking at it, it brings up some curious questions. Those aren’t bunny ears, so what sort of animal are we supposed to represent? Why do we seem to have a case of the measles? Why are we wearing such thick, heavy costumes in the warmth of Florida? Were we really allowed to consume all those pixie sticks?

And while we’re asking questions, why did I decide again to do a finished piece of artwork every day this month? Who’s going to take my kids for the next 31 days? Don’t expect great things – most of my artwork last year was pretty terrible, but I did end up with a few pieces I really loved. And I’m going to try to keep my comic going at the same time, so we’ll just see how this goes.

I’m actually pretty excited to start this year. Not only do I get to honor the memory of a friend by playing the game and work on my art skills, but Dick Nelson has managed to find  another 21 poor saps creative minds to play along!

I’m going to be posting my work here on the site, but if you want to see all the other artwork, head over to The October Game Facebook Page and take a look around.

Getting Ready for the Game

Starting next Monday I’m going to be playing Bill Counts’s October Game. One piece of finished artwork a day for thirty-one days. Simple, right?

Chalk in Terra Cotta, Oil Paint 2011

This week I’m in prep mode. Here’s what I’m doing to get ready:

1. Declutter everything. I like to simplify everything I can before starting a big project, so I’m not distracted by piles of stuff. It is also nice to have lots of clean surfaces accessible in case I decide to pull out the oil paints. I’m not saying this will last much past the first week of October, but it is psychologically helpful to at least BEGIN the month this way.

2. Create an idea list. I’ve got a list of 25 ideas so far. I’m still going to work on whatever I happen to be inspired by in the moment (much like i do with the comic), but listing out ideas helps reserve a corner of my subconsciousness to be working through these ideas as I go about the rest of my life.

3. Organize supplies. I plan to be doing mostly sketching/photoshopping for my work this year, but I would still like to do some finished pieces with either oil paint or pastel, so I’m going through what I have and organizing and prepping paper and paints, and ordering what I need.

4. Work on my schedule. As you might have noticed, I have two preschoolers who are with me 24/7. Last year it was tough enough, but I still managed to get it done with a one-year-old and a three-year-old, so I’m not too worried. I do have to make sure our days are going smoothly, however, and keep the little monsters darlings well occupied to give me space to create.

Have you tried a challenge like this? What sort of things do you do to get ready?

Almost October

Was that a chill in the air I felt last night? Is it almost October again? Time for the October Game!

Night Formation   Pastel, 12 ” x 8 “, Bill Counts 2008

For four years, every October, my friend Bill Counts played his own little game – a painting a day for the month of October. (Read more details here.) Last year I played it in his memory, and this year, Dick Nelson talked me into trying again – and we’re opening up the challenge to everyone!

You don’t have to do a painting – I’m going to try to focus on character drawings that will probably be painted in Photoshop, though I’m open to digging out some oil paints or pastels if I’m inspired. Just head to the Facebook Page Dick set up, and get in touch with him to have your work displayed.

Also, if you’re going to be in the Knoxville area this weekend, don’t miss the Secret City Film Festival where they are going to be showing the documentary made about Bill’s October Game.

The October Game Wrap-up

So, last month was quite the experience for me as I challenged myself to paint a picture a day for The October Game. This isn’t the first time I’ve made such a strange effort – I did the NaSoAlMo twice, but without two kids to wrangle.

As I expected, besides honing some severely neglected art skills, I learned some things about myself, and solidified some things I’ve been working on. Here’s what I’ve got:

1. You can’t be too busy.

This was said to me by a friend many years ago as I marveled over the number of things he was able to accomplish in a typical week. It also may seem to be a contradiction of the minimalistic life I’m trying to achieve, but it really can be in harmony. It’s all about editing – ruthlessly evaluating what is in your life, and deciding what is giving you the best returns. I thought that I would have to give more things up in order to accomplish my picture-a-day goal, but in reality, I gave up very little, and felt less stressed out then I have in the past when I was being far less productive.

2. Your breakthrough moment is right around the corner.

As an artist, I of course know and have experienced this, but I’m amazed at how often I behave as if I don’t. I give up or “set aside” something that is giving me trouble instead of pushing through and finding success. As many have said before – this can be applied to just about everything in life. Your career, your relationship, your finances. Persevere.

3. There’s no accounting for taste.

It’s baffling to me that some of the more popular pictures in the Game were ones I hated. And NO ONE loved the chalk but me. It’s one of two I actually plan to hang on the wall. Can you guess the second?

4. Creativity is an inexhaustible resource.

If you are feeling like you don’t have many ideas, go ahead and use up the few little ones you do have. If you just let them sit there, they’ll never get replaced with something much more awesome. Trust me. It works.

5. You actually can change the way you think.

This takes radical effort, but like #2 & #4, you simply start with what you can do and persevere. Little by little by little, you change the way you think. This may not impress you, but I now make my bed every day. Before 2011, in 20 adult years, I could probably count on my fingers the number of times I made my bed when I wasn’t planning to have company. (Embarrassing and a little astounding, I know, but true…) I’m changing habits that allow me to accomplish more and live the life I really want and it’s actually working for the first time. It’s amazing. Try it.

6. Life is short.

I know I said this at the start – but life is short and meant to be enjoyed. If you’re not excited about your life – figure out why and fix it. It isn’t about everything going great. We can’t control so many of the things that shape our destiny. Natural disasters. Bad decisions our loved ones make. Cancer. But we let that feeling of helplessness drift into the things we can control and miss out on all the opportunities for happiness and fulfillment that are right in front of us.

Go create something.

Here’s my month:

October Game Rules

Without intention, my mind has begun forming rules to follow while playing my own October Game. I’ve come up with five to share with you in case you want to know my thought process for this madness.

1. Finish a piece of artwork every day. Finish it to the point that you feel it is a complete picture, even if you are not completely satisfied.

2. Post every day’s art – good or bad.

3. Use this experience to sketch life. Open your eyes to see the beautiful or the bizarre in ordinary things.

4. Challenge yourself. Maybe even do something that scares the hell out of you.

5. Self-deprecation can only be used with humor, and both are required.

Intro to Bill Counts’s first October Game

The October Game

So, now that my first query for my very first finished picture book is sent, I’m leaving behind the world of shiny fire trucks and moving on to some new things. Rocket ships?

One of the things I’m going to be doing over the next few weeks is getting ready to play The October Game. What is The October Game, you ask? No, not the Bradbury story.  Although, I think the title came from that. Wait. Let me start over and tell you about my friend, Bill.

I met Bill Counts through the theater, and he was one of those rare people you meet of whom you ask “Why doesn’t anyone know about this guy? Why is he on such a small stage?” He had flawless comic timing. Then I found out he was an artist. And a very good one. He started doing this project, “The October Game”, where he did a piece of art a day (often paintings), every day through the month of October. You can head over to his site if you want to see them, or if you live in the Tri-Cities area, Dick Nelson is going to be showing his work next month.

Bill passed away earlier this year, and the truth is, although I’ve known him for a long time, he was one of those people that I always assumed I would have the opportunity to get to know better. He was the most interesting person at the party, and fortunately for me, he always wanted to hide out in the kitchen where I was fixing the snacks. He was supportive of my efforts – with the theater or my band or my paltry attempts at artwork. He was so humble about his own immense talent, and so encouraging of mine. I miss him.

So, anyway, this year I’m going to play The October Game in his honor. And because let’s face it.  I need the practice.

Let the Game Begin.

The 2008 October Game

Today starts my new favorite part of October – The October Game! I’m not sure if I enjoy the paintings or the commentary of the paintings more, but since there is no way for me to leave my own commentary on his site and he doesn’t repost them on flickr or anything useful for sharing, I’m just going to have to do it here. (Of course, no one will see them since I weaned everyone off checking for updates on alturego long ago.)

Speaking of, I love the texture of Night Formation:

Night Formation by Bill Counts

Good luck, Bill!