Looking Backward, Looking Forward

Like many people, I set aside some time at the end of one year and the beginning of the next to review the year gone by and consider plans for the new year.  Some years are easier to review, or plan for, than others. Of course, plans can change at any point during the year, and a year gone by may bear little resemblance to the plans set out at the start of that year.

With 2016, the first half of my year conformed extremely closely to the plans I’d made earlier in the year. In fact, the main plan was really just following through with an announcement I’d made in early August of 2015, when I announced my intention to record and release a pop album in the first half of 2016. The recordings for the In and Out of Love Again album were well underway at by the start of 2016, but there was still a good deal more to do, and I really just made it by my announced deadline. There wasn’t time for a  whole lot beyond that, but I hadn’t expected there to be. I did at least fit in a one-week road trip up and down California’s Central Coast scheduled around my daughter’s Stanford graduate school diploma ceremony.

It took over a month beyond the album’s release to wrap up various loose ends on the project, but by the beginning of August, I was already looking at what would be next.  At this point I’d moved beyond the concrete thoughts I’d had at the start of the year, and I decided to take things in a more “step at a time” manner, choosing each new recording project as I went along.

In the last three months of 2016, I released three new singles.  All three (A Place to Meet Jesus, I Believe, and You Make Life Easier) were recordings I’d initially started on the order of a half decade earlier that needed remixing, and, at least in one case, some additional vocals.  Of course, they all needed cover art, too, and figuring out what to do on that front, then actually doing it (or sometimes the other way around since sometimes what to do emerges from trying to do something different), can sometimes take a good deal of time.

In fact, the cover art portion of my most recent single, or rather the challenge of trying to execute my initial idea, got me exploring a new area.  My initial idea for You Make It Easier cover art was to have a kitten cuddling up to a teddy bear.  I didn’t have any photos to use as starting points, and almost all my previous album, EP, and single covers started with photos. I also didn’t have a working vector art program anymore as the ancient version of the one I’d used in the past hadn’t worked in newer versions of Windows.  Thus, I decided to look for a new program and watched a lot of video demonstrations and tutorials after picking one, with the idea of drawing something from scratch.  My mouse drawing skills turned out to be even worse than my paper and pencil drawing skills, and I eventually gave up and posed some stuffed animals (the kitten and teddy bear turned into a lion and a teddy bear since my collection of stuffed animals, one of which is actually my daughter’s, is limited to those two) for photographs, then heavily manipulated that photograph to make it look more like art. However, that exercise also inspired me to look into graphic tablets, and I picked one up late in the year (as a Christmas present to myself). The “painting” you see at the top of this blog was my first attempt at using that (as well as another new graphics program). Let’s just say my 2017 plans aren’t likely to include giving up my day job to pursue a career as a visual artist.

Along the way, I also took another week of vacation that included three shorter road trips, some concerts by my favorite artists, and a fair amount of photography.  That vacation, along with my earlier road trip, were my first real vacations since my divorce back in 2010. While traveling solo is a lot different than traveling with a family, I did at least rekindle my love for travel.

This year, when I got to considering my plans for 2017, things were nowhere near as clear as they were in 2016. There is no one project that I expect to consume half the year, or even a quarter of a year. I have a number of thoughts on recordings, some of which will involve remixing and others that will be brand new.  I will only hint at those for now in saying that several of the ideas involve songs I did not write, though other ideas involve my original songs. I also have some ideas for projects that could go beyond singles, though, because the two most concrete ideas I have of that sort involve songs that would all need new recordings, it is not clear that I’ll be able to do much on that front given the time consumed by my day job in the I.T. industry.

I am also feeling a strong urge to explore some other creative areas. Creating cover art for my recordings keeps me returning to the visual arts, and I would like to at least explore the notion of computer-based drawing and painting to a greater degree than I have to date. There are some other areas I have in mind, but I know there will not be time for even half of the areas I have floating around my mind at the moment, so I will need to start narrowing things down to determine where my focus will be beyond the few relatively small (he says hopefully) projects I’ve already started.

I’ve written in the past about being at a crossroads.  (Actually I’ve written about such a notion on multiple occasions, but the link in the previous sentence is one where I actually used that word in as the title of a blog.) As 2017 begins, I’m feeling very much at such a place. While 2016 was a year in which I accomplished some relatively ambitious goals, it was also a very mixed year on several fronts, both professional and personal. Just as I am feeling an urge to dabble in some new creative areas (and/or possibly focusing in more depth in some areas where I’ve dabbled in the past), there are other areas of life where I am feeling the need to make some changes. However, while what I need to “change from” may be fairly concrete in my mind, at least in some cases, what to “change to” is either far less so or completely unknown to me at this point.

Thus, looking forward into 2017 will necessarily involve taking some time to brainstorm possibilities, sift through options, and make and embark on the plans that emerge. That notion is kind of exciting, and kind of scary. I guess that’s what keeps life interesting. Happy New Year!