“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.” ~Auguste Rodin
I was inadvertently asked the question, "how do you become an artist?" the other day and I have been thinking about this. When did I "become" an artist? I think I am still "becoming" and hope I will always be on this journey to becoming. I am continually filled with doubt and discomfort about my status as "artist".
The first step to "becoming" would be listening to your soul speak to you. In my case, it never stopped speaking to me from the first moments I can remember. Life spoke to me through the trees and the forests, the wind and the sky, the light and the shadows. As a child I knew that I was a part of all this and could never be disconnected from it if I wanted to feel alive. I could not have articulated this in words but I knew it deep down in my bones. I found I could express this connection with shapes and colors better than i could with words.
Finding your voice as an artist is not easy. The first attempts are sloppy and difficult. Learning to master your tools and have the self discipline to stay the course in spite of all the voices around you telling you that this is not a rational life choice are all grist for the mill.
Learning not to take rejection personally, learning to stand up again after your ego takes blow after blow, learning to develop a strong enough ego to contain all that bubbles up to the surface from the unconscious when you start to paint seriously. There is much to learn and navigate and unless you find a strong mentor, much of this road must be navigated alone.
My advice would be this: Find your voice by painting steadily for at least a year. Sequester yourself and listen within during this period, find your own way apart from all the outside influences and opinions. Once you have done this develop a strong body of work and then, and only then, create a professional portfolio to introduce yourself to the outside world.
Now you are ready to bring the outside world in and you will find your own natural rhythm in this. For me summer is a more extroverted energy, the out breath, where I attend shows, exhibit my work, travel with my paintings, do artist talks, look at other art and so on. Winter is my inhale time. I slow down, turn inward, read more, hunker down in my studio and let the impressions of the summer emerge onto the canvas.
Other thoughts and suggestions:
- Always use the best materials you can afford
- Open your heart to beauty and grace, they are happening all around us
- Be courageous and listen within
- Fiercely protect your creative time and space
- Be kind to other artists, there are always those greater and lesser than us.
- Share with and encourage other artists
- Look beyond the visible surface of things and feel the life force beneath.
- Spend time alone in nature
- Go to as many gallery openings as you can
- Spend time looking at great art
- Stay humble
- Stay on the edge, never get too comfortable with your work
- Stay passionate and keep the work alive
- Never stop "becoming"
“Beauty is the illumination of your soul.” ~John O’Donohue