When we are in the midst of things, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture of our own journey as an artist. We tend to focus on the day to day, the ups and downs of whatever we are currently working on, as well as on future goals and plans. But every now and then it’s good to appreciate the path we’ve walked on to this point, how one thing has led to another.
Prompted by several recent Facebook posts
an artist having a retrospective exhibit gave thanks to everyone who had helped and supported her along the way
an artist was thinking about how her initial experiments with a particular medium led to a whole series and the sale of that first playing-around painting.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been making art a long time you can look back and connect any number of dots (—when this particular thing led to that—when this opportunity presented itself—when someone encouraged you to try something. )
Reminds me of the Talking Heads song, Once in a Lifetime: “And you may ask yourself, well how did I get here???”
True for many aspects of life
Esp. for art career may be helpful when things are not going well, discouraged or having rejection to deal with
You build a history that can keep you on track/guard against discouragement/give you confidence
Keep track of that history in notes, journals, sketchbooks, older work--even unintentionally you leave a long trail of where you have been
May be interesting to write or think about more directly:
Pondering the journey/questions
Where did the art urge originate for you?
Who were your mentors? Did you search for them deliberately or did that relationship evolve?
At what point did you start to call yourself an artist?
Looking back were there breakthrough paintings or insights that pointed the way?
What have been the hardest times to keep going and how did you push through?
Any/all of these can be explored in journaling or conversation -- helps you appreciate how complex /challenging this path as an artist can be.
Give yourself credit for persevering
Give others credit for their help and support
Nobody does this alone
Gratitude—for the people who really see you and understand your needs as an artist—rare and important—family, friends, mentors and teachers
Realize that you can be that support for other artists on their path
Seeing your art journey as an unfolding story—the big picture—helps you see past any current difficulties.
What recurs? ebbs and flows in success, times of focus and motivation/times of searching and transition
Path of a particular work of art that ended up being sold or recognized in some way. The chain of events in retrospect can seem amazing—you never know at the start. (personal story of Red Bog—recognized by John Seed—developed rapport with him/wrote forward to our book. Painting itself= warped panel, eventually purchased by gallery owner for personal collection, happy ending.) Path of a particular choice of medium or other aspect of form—cold wax for me
Seeing the big picture also helps you talk about and describe your work in a more meaningful way. Not that you have to give your whole history but introspection generally leads to insights. Our personal voice is the result of our journey so think about how aspects of your art life have contributed--
How have your intentions or goals for your work changed over time? I notice that over time my ideas open up, become more expansive in what I will consider doing, as a result of growth of confidence, a more free feeling. But this only came after years of more narrow focus.
Looking back I see how important it was to have distinct focus.
Cyclical aspects—what recurs? Themes in your work, aspects of form or content that find new expression over time? Compare a current work with one from ten years ago—what is consistent?
Giving an artist talk—a topic for another podcast, but others do find the story of our journey interesting. How have your experiences as an artist led to your current work?
Promotion: We all do have a story and story engages other people…what about your own journey could be used to promote your work? Be a little cautious not to lose professional image but indicating how you have devoted yourself to your work is good.
Wrap-Up: Losing sight of the big picture is easy to do when we all have so much on our minds in the day-to-day aspects of our art practice -- often thinking ahead to the future but not appreciating how far we’ve come. But our story as an artist is what creates our personal voice and it is something other artists and the larger art world often finds interesting