It is difficult for an artist to continually challenge themselves and grow as a craftsperson, especially outside of art school or without an artist community. Occasionally I will meet people that express the desire to complete creative projects in writing, music, or art, but they lack the confidence and motivation to see their ideas through to the end. I started to think about a few of the key tools and methods used in art school that helped me to maintain an active studio practice even now seven years later, and the ones that I have not been using enough to get to the next level of my craft.
Create a functional studio space
Frequently research more about one’s craft and related topics
Share art pieces or projects regularly
Build relationships with other serious artists or creative makers
Sharing creative work regularly and having strong relationships with serious artists are extremely important, and are two things that I still need to improve upon. I do not have a strong artist community like I did when I was in art school, but I am missing out on some helpful things by not putting my work in more public spaces. Showing work holds one accountable for what they have produced, giving more motivation to complete a project with a high standard in mind before making it public. It can also act like a beacon to call other artists into one’s everyday life.
Other artists and creatives can provide thoughtful, constructive feedback, but it may take some effort to find the right people. They are a great sounding board because they have developed the language to explain their thoughts based on their own creative process and experience. A good critique can reaffirm some of the strong points in a piece as well as get the brainwaves flowing for future work. Sharing one’s work can also be about getting closure for that piece. Even if some of the comments received cause uneasiness or point out mistakes, there is relief in putting a project in a public space and saying to oneself, “I wash my hands of this project. It’s over.” Finishing an art piece or a design and then displaying it is like making a giant, satisfying check mark on the original idea that sparked the creation, and frees up space in the mind to move on to the next project.
“To achieve happiness as an artist, one has to allow the joy of making to be fulfilling enough in itself.”
If the fear of other’s opinions, or the fear of being unskilled is overwhelming, then perhaps the concept of creating has become too aggrandized. No one project is the end all, be all of a portfolio. It’s important to look at each project as a way to play and enjoy the process of attempting to get an idea out into a realized form. Often I will spend hours working on one piece of a project, only to find that it doesn’t fit and I need to start again. Some days that can be really frustrating, and I will often waste time trying to coax an element I’ve spent so much time on already to fit my needs. Accepting that some of my art or design work is bad and needs to be abandoned is part of the process. I still enjoyed all the work I put into that failed piece and I really enjoyed figuring out a new way to complete my design. To achieve happiness as an artist, one has to allow the joy of making to be fulfilling enough in itself. Studio work can be a sanctuary, where the mind can build and be curious without pressure or anxiety. A consistent studio practice is essential to allow work to be play and play to be work.