For the longest time, the idea of making a body of work and really embracing the idea of being an artist was just overwhelming for me. I have always done creative stuff. Not just little crafts. I would take art classes and learn some intensive techniques like metalsmithing, bookmaking, lampwork beads, or ceramics. And I had always hung out in art communities. But I never really dove in to creating a body of work. I was an art major in college. How did I not really understand how to make a body of work? It was as if I thought that learning complex creative techniques would somehow give me license to consider myself an artist. And maybe just by the nature of how I used my visual language communicate ideas, did give me license to call myself an artist. But I had nothing of substance other than a couple of successful projects to show for it.
Once I found my medium in fiber art, I kind of felt I really still did not understand where I was falling short in terms of how and what I was making as an artist. Even as I started UrbanGypZ I was not really producing something cohesive that I felt like I could stand behind as really art. It is one thing to be a professional knitter, dyer and hand spinner, but I am not sure I would consider any of those things (outside of the the actual business) a body of work. I found little clues to my own style in the materials(the yarn and the fiber) I was creating. But, actually making a real body of fiber art work– one that I felt was cohesive, had substance and considered my personal style–took a really long time for me to come to terms with and produce.
Here is what I figured out: Being an artist doesn’t have much to do with talent (which by the way is subjective) or even what you are making. It actually is all about consistency and confidence using your visual language. Today I am going to share with you what I have found to be my 5 keys to actually making art I love and am proud to stand behind.
Make art a priority. I am the first to admit, I will often bump my studio time for random everyday errands. But, I have to say, the first thing that HAS to happen when you are really, really ready to start making some art is you MUST show up. Seriously. Get the calendar out, slug out some non-negotionable time, and start saying no to anything else. This shit is not going to make itself. Get in the studio.
Make a lot of the same thing. It is so easy to just cycle through a series of techniques and consider yourself a craftsman. Don’t get me wrong trying techniques and playing with ideas is important and fun. But, what if you take time to explore an idea deeply–doing the same thing over and over, until you feel you have really mastered the technique and it becomes second nature. The next step would be to make tiny adjustments and add small details that bring your personal style to this body of work. The artists whose work I can identify, are the ones who have made a lot of the same or similar things over and over. With each exposure to their work, their style becomes recognizable. I remember the artist and may even seek out their work.
Stay curious. While making a lot of the same thing, you also need to continue to give your work room to grow and evolve. Inspirations are born out of feeding your curiosity. “What if” is the best thing you can ask yourself in terms of growing your work. Be curious enough to take a chance on trying new versions of your work. It is okay if you decide these ideas are not right. There are really no mistakes. It is all information and will most likely lead you to the next “what if” moment. This is what growing your work is all about.
Don’t overthink, just do. It is easy to fall into the trap of measuring your work against other’s– worrying how your art will be perceived and judged. This can be one of the biggest creativity killers. Get out of your head and judge your work only by how you perceive it in your heart. Do you feel a little flutter when you stand back to really look at your work? Do you find yourself thinking “oh hell yes”. When your share your heart, anything you make is a million time better than working off your fear of how your work will be perceived.
Show your work. Just do it. Even if it is only with your friends. Actually…share your work especially with your friends. I know this is outright contradicting point number 3. There is no explaining why this will make you a better artist other than to say, the people who know you the best, will see you and your heart in your work. AND…they will also call you out when your work does not ring true.
Being an artist is not an endpoint, but a never-ending process. Looking back I can see that even the doubt and dissatisfaction I had, was all a pert of the journey. And from what I can tell will continue to be.
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