After giving an artist talk at my solo show “Era Dorada” (Golden Age) at the Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart) University of Puerto Rico, I was asked to offer some words of advice for young artists and art students. I gave them a few at the moment but after that I felt the urge to really think about the matter and write down a list of seven points of advice that could serve as a simple guideline for those who are starting out as artists. Of course this list could also be applied to any artist at any stage as in my case being a mid-career artist these seven points are the laws I try to live up to all the time. By following these seven points you may be able to channel and get the most out of your creative energies.
1. Read. Feed your brain with good books. Study as much as possible and make it part of your daily activities. Stay focused, keep your intellect alive and nurture your mind with healthy intellectual activities. These do not necessarily have to be related to art as everything in one way or the other informs art and will influence your creative mind. Be open to be challenged by new ideas and feel curious to constantly learn about new issues that are of your interest. Be continuously curious to learn, ask yourself questions and look for the answers. The internet is a great tool, use it properly.
2. Keep a Journal and document everything you make. Write and draw every day, make it a habit and a discipline. This will keep your creative flow alive and to know yourself. With this you will be able to hold on to new ideas. Much of the creative blocks can be avoided or removed by this simple practice. Do not worry if the drawings or writings seem stupid or irrelevant. This journal is private and it’s a way of having an intimate look into your inner creative being so you can access it at any moment. Affirm your thoughts and beliefs, write and re-write your artist statement. Document not only your ideas but also your work with a portfolio with good photos of your work. Start photographing even your drawings. In case your work is lost or stolen, you will have a visual evidence of your artwork. Besides being an effective professional tool it will allow to view your own evolution later on.
3. Make a work schedule. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with production at the studio. There are so many things to do that keep us away from making art. Assign yourself a time and space to work as much as possible but also leaving time for other important activities as well as a time to relax. Be realistic, know your limitations and be aware of your responsibilities. Start viewing your studio time as important as any other job, not expecting to be visited by a muse or inspiration but working a certain amount of hours a day. For an artist his or her work is central and he or she works as many hours a day as possible. Some artists work 7 to 8 hours a day just like any other full time job. Discipline is the keyword here.
4. Share your art. Art is not only about creating work hidden in your studio but also about meeting new people like artists, gallery owners, collectors, art lovers and anyone related in one way or the other to the arts and culture. Be open to share your art not only with other art related people but also with people who do not have any connection with art. I find this to be a perfect opportunity for them to learn something new and for myself an opportunity to hear a different point of view as I practice how to speak about my art.
5. Experience the world. Study nature first hand. Learn from direct experience as well as mediated experience. Learn to appreciate and experience what is around you. Go out and visit a museum, watch a movie, go to the park, spend some time with friends or join a group. Participate in healthy activities and expose yourself to the world. Live life outside the studio and allow these experiences to inform your vision of the world.
6. Be open to be critiqued Detach yourself from your work and listen to different points of view once in a while. Let go of your ego. This often hurts artists who feel they are too high above everyone else. Be open to be critiqued by other artists as well as people who do not have anything to do with art. Learn how to defend your work objectively and without getting too personal about it. With mutual respect we can listen and learn from even a child. Your art will have a different response from person to person and it’s good to take note of these individual reactions. Also be aware of who and what kind of person is giving you advice. Always be yourself and carefully examine advice from people who want you to be like everyone else or like themselves. Be ready to question the reasons. Critiques are a healthy way to learn and grow as an artist.
7. Dare to be different. If you see most artists painting large canvases, paint on small panels. Go against the mainstream; avoid becoming an imitator of current styles and trends. The best artists I know of make their own way and do not follow the masses or make what everyone expects them to do. Look into yourself and search for those qualities that make you especially different from other artists. Explore and take these differences further with your work so you may stand out of the crowd. This could make a huge difference on how others view and remember your work and you as an artist. For this it is important to follow the advice #2.
Hope these words of advice are of help to those young artists out there who wish to pursue art seriously. As a last word I should add that in this life I’ve learned that being an artist means much more than just having talent. Many good people out there have talent but do not take themselves seriously. I’ve seen poorly skilled art students and artists persist and keep practicing non-stop and after years of hard work they have become accomplished artists. So I say it’s not a matter of talent but on how much you wish to become something and how much you work for it!
All text on this blog entry is copyrighted material© by the artist and author Patrick McGrath Muñiz
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