If there was one thing that I would share above all other things, besides the development of your work, it would clearly be putting yourself in positions of opportunity. For me it has been the single most important discovery that forever altered my path. It may seem like an obvious aspect but the real application of this is where the rubber meets the road. I elaborate on this in greater detail in the book, ‘Studio to Wall’, but for the purposes of this article I will elaborate a few points.
The first assumption is that your work has been sufficiently developed to be able to hold its own amongst the flood of other work that we will see next to ours in whatever venue you have chosen to participate in. I have heard the argument that ‘I only paint [or write or dance]for my enjoyment and really don’t think much about what it takes to be seen in the public’. But in reality I know of no one who after having spent years of honing their activity in art does not want to be seen or to share their effort with someone even if the desire isn’t admitted. It seems like an innate quality of wanting to connect with others in an exchange of experience both from the artist’s side and also the viewers.
Most artist’s make their work in relative obscurity. The studio for most is and can be a very lonely place where one comes face to face with many internal and external issues. Even amateur artists once engaged with the making of art find themselves confronting limitations in being able to express themselves as well as an ability to be focused in the direction of their effort. There are stages of development that are normal and the growth process always has pangs of pain attached to it.
We can apply this concept of putting yourself in positions of opportunity both in the ‘learning phase’ and then in the ‘showing your work’ or presentation phase. ‘Stumbling’ across some influencing mentor or teacher at the moment you needed this guidance is an outcome of some decision that was made that put you somewhere you normally would not be. Some call this synchronicity or good luck but the origin of the experience was your willingness to venture out that allowed for the crossing of paths. Venturing out, on all levels, is one of the most uncomfortable things an artist will decide to do. This alone creates great resistance to the process of creating opportunity. Internally it confronts all of the insecurities we chatter about between our ears in the aloneness of our lives.
Once we resolve that we now face real emotions and experiences that engage us in developing a path of being seen. This typically is where the process falls apart for many, largely because unlike learning techniques to express yourself, whether with paint or clay or words or movement, we lose the fact that the act of exchange is as much art as is the work we do. It is uncomfortable for most if not all. However it enables the process of artmaking to move forward and when done with intention and thought the possibility of good things happening increase exponentially. So what exactly is the thing you dread doing related to your art? For me the things I dreaded most and made me massively uncomfortable brought my greatest opportunities without fail even if I did not realize it at the time.
The word of wisdom is, ‘Practice makes perfect’. Take one small thing that you know would benefit your progress as an artist and do it whatever it is. Accept the fact that if it makes you uncomfortable it is most likely the thing you need to do to move on. Practice it. Get better at it little by little. If you consider this one day you might look back and say, ‘the thing that I didn’t want to do was the door to the things I had dreamed of and now are my reality’.