Rebecca and Ross discuss why sharing your process and techniques with others helps to advance your own work and career.
An artist’s creative process is not always easily accessed by others—it may include technical secrets as well as approaches that are simply hard to convey to others even if there is a desire to share. Do the art practices of others seem mysterious to you? Do you guard some of your own studio secrets, and why? In this episode we’ll look at the pros and cons of keeping studio secrets and how transparency can benefit you as well as other artists.
As a workshop instructor I’m sometimes asked why I give away all my --an interesting question—first because I do charge for my workshops!
But the real question is what do you risk by being open about your work.
My response is something like, my secrets are my secrets, but my techniques are things I’m happy to share. What I mean is that there are things that go into a painting that are private—memories, emotions—and there’s not much point in sharing those anyway, they are personal to me and would not be helpful to anyone else.
But the biggest/best secrets are right in front of you—the importance of finding your voice, being patient, practice, etc. Things you just have to do for yourself with diff. results for each person. We can advise and offer tip but personal path is your own.
Also some things about process are very hard to explain.
Technique and process are just means to an end. Techniques are tools for each of us to use in our own ways. Even something like a formula for a painting color can lead to different results for different artists. There can be a feeling if we knew exactly what someone else did we could enhance our own work.
People tend to look for formulas/answers as the result of being taught that way.
That said I am not always ready to share something when I’ve just figured it out or am in the process of seeing what I can do with it. Another thing about teaching is people can feel entitled to the inside story on everything you do. (I do have moments of “ I just figured this out and I’m not ready to share it.” But there comes a time when I am ready. My hesitation is more about enjoying the discovery process on my own.)
That’s me—we all have to figure out our boundaries on this. When you’re a teacher you are probably more inclined to share.
Reasons to be Open:
Letting others understand your techniques does not diminish them. If anything, it adds to the appreciation of the ones you have mastered. Never as easy as it looks or sounds.
A lot of great art has been created using very straightforward and well-known techniques such as applying oil paint to canvas with a brush.
Simply showing someone a technique is a first step, and most people figure out their own ways to use it.
Keeping your techniques or formulas secret doesn’t necessarily add to own stature or mystique. It may just make you look guarded or territorial, maybe a little insecure--
Work that depends on mastery of a particular “secret” technique can be shallow—it can limit the artist to exploiting that which he or she has staked a claim to. The work can start to seem tricky or gimmicky.
Spiritual or philosophical benefits of sharing: Acknowledge that every new thing comes arises from some previous knowledge that was shared. You may have put it together in a new way but be aware of the chain of which you are a part. By sharing you allow others to build on your discoveries.
Teaching—obviously you need to be open. You can set your boundaries around anything you’re not ready to share, but I think these should be relatively few things. The spirit of teaching is sharing, being open and generous. Students don’t appreciate it if you hold back.
Offering some free material via websites, youtube, etc. is good business practice
Selling: talking about your techniques and process leads to understanding and appreciation of what you have developed.
Relations with other artists: when you share, opens door to sharing back, also it can be interesting to see what happens in a collaborative sense. Your ideas transformed by someone else. Opens dialogue and collaboration. Reciprocity.
Don’t be put off by fears of copying etc.
What Not to Share:
You can potentially share anything—up to you
Sharing does not mean dictating or controlling how the knowledge is used. Know that once something is out in the world it has a life of its own. That’s basically positive and healthy but should be understood. Knock-off work rarely succeeds.
Difficulties in sharing--Some things about process are simply very hard to articulate –you may think another artist is being secretive when in fact they just don’t have the words. Art speak or vague descriptions may well be honest attempts to talk about what is basically beyond words.
Be honest with yourself—do you think as an artist you are “supposed” to be secretive as part of an artist's mystique? Is that really your natural inclination? Are you afraid of being more open—if so can you see benefits you might be missing out on?
Wrap-Up: By nature many artists are very open and generous with their knowledge and ideas—a lot more so than the stereotype of the loner, egotistical artist would indicate. In my opinion that is a good thing to embrace and be a part of and makes your art life a richer experience.