Welcome back! Happy Sunday and Happy Thanksgiving (if you live in Canada!). The topic of Moving Toward Exhibition continues with the third installment and as promised I am going to touch on pitfalls and other distractions that might derail us. At the same time I am plan to provide some solutions that have helped me along the the way.
I have had some emails and questions to find out how difficult it is to begin with a new body of work. As mentioned previously, I have a general idea and often set a theme or a working title. I will have several simple sketches and my list of words, words that describe emotions, color schemes, and other details pertaining to the new body of work I envision.
Those of you new to this initial stage of planning a body of work may consider pulling out the continuing education calendar of the local art college, university or use the internet. Be careful here, no matter how enticing and exciting the descriptions for the drawing, painting or college classes sound… they involve your full commitment, time in class and “best of all” – homework! Be honest with yourself: if you can do homework for an art class you can put that time and energy into your studio practice where you will be focusing on your body of work for exhibition. Every stitch, every piece of fabric you handle, every bead you attach gets you closer to your goal! The lesson I am trying to impart: go directly to your studio, do not go past your local art collage and look for a class to take! Tap into your experience and work with what you have gathered over the years. Don’t forget: you are embarking on a journey of learning and self-discovery. Creating a body of work for exhibition is equivalent to writing a book – mounting and opening the exhibition is publishing this book!
Once you are settled in your studio and have been working for a while, another hurdle comes along: I believe that THE biggest obstacle to overcome is self-doubt. Just when you thought you put the self-doubt monster to rest it peeks around the corner… rears its ugly head and ultimately slows down our creative progress. The little voice asks “Is this good enough?” or “Why are you doing this? Why are you working so hard?” and “What if nobody likes my work?” Tough questions need even tougher actions!
Keep in mind: Every artist, no matter how well seasoned, encounters doubt at one time or another. Overcoming this obstacle demands discipline and a strong focus. When self-doubt sneaks up on me, I try to ignore it as much as possible but eventually I have to acknowledge its existence and confront it head on. The best tactic I have developed is to pull out all the work created for the exhibition to this point, lay it out or pin it to the design wall, brew a cup of tea or coffee and sit back to view the display. I review my initial sketches and writing. I make additional notes, and add questions that may arise at that time. Next I remove myself from the studio for the rest of the day or even a weekend. I will take a long walk – no matter what the weather – or make a dinner date with my husband. The next day looks much brighter. I enter the studio with new eyes and can move on with the work at hand.
I haven’t answered the questions from above yet – the questions if your work will be good enough… or what happens if nobody likes them. These are questions you must not pose to yourself. What you need to ask yourself instead is: “What am I learning from this new work?” and “Am I enjoying the process of making decisions and working through design challenges?” Embrace the challenges fully, look at them as great learning opportunities. You are honing your problem solving skills, you are practicing patience and each time you complete a section of your work you have grown as an artist.
There is one more pitfall to watch out for: recently I heard the term FOMO for the very first time. FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out. I thought the person who had diagnosed herself of having “a serious case of FOMO” had made this up. Imagine my surprise when on September 21st, 2012 I receive a Robert Genn Newsletter who warns that artists must carefully manage FOMO… Psychologists have observed that “FOMO is pandemic and getting worse.” To read the newsletter click here.
Overall I caution any artist who is building up a body of work to avoid distractions as much as possible. Establish a routine and observe it as best as you can. With all the electronic devices nowadays, we have access to calendars. Everyone enters doctor and dentist appointments, parent teacher interview times, and our times to get to the gym for our exercise routine. So why don’t you reserve a block of time to work in the studio? Yes, I used the word “work” – as that is what you do when you prepare for an exhibition. Reserve a block of time each day, and when your friend drops by for coffee be strict: you are working and cannot interrupt at this time. Suggest a couple of alternate times and in no time your neighbors and friends will get the message not to drop by without an appointment!
Other distractions are the telephone and the computer. Let voicemail pick up the phone call, and emails do not have to checked every half hour, turn off the incoming email sound. Check them twice a day and set a time limit. I know from experience that if I don’t limit my computer time I can use my block originally reserved to create on frivolous emails, surfing the net or checking out various blogs. I recognize this quickly and make adjustments before I fall into habits that make me experience undue stress because I am unable to stick to my time table.
One last suggestion may be helpful for emerging artists as they work toward their first exhibition. When artists work in groups or as pairs many of the pitfalls and issues covered above are less of a problem. Encouragement and support is natural as several artists move toward a common goal. When an artist is creating a body of work for a solo exhibition all of the above mentioned obstacles are a strong reality. I strongly suggest that any emerging artist seek out another, more experienced artist in a related discipline for mentorship. A mentor is invaluable when looking for encouragement, feedback and critique. A mentor is not a teacher who will hand out assignments and monitor the artist on a daily basis. Instead a mentor provides support when needed and does not impose his/her personal agenda on the mentee.
Back to pitfalls: I am beginning to ramble a bit. It is time to turn this topic over to you. Please leave comments and questions and I will answer as best as I can.
On Tuesday I am providing information on how to assemble a portfolio, and briefly touch on what is required when seeking exhibition opportunities in galleries.