IT’S ART, BUT IS IT GOOD ENOUGH?
So here I am with my planner and my coloured pens, I’ve written out in Booker Prize detail the life I foresee for myself and my family in 1,3 and 10-15 years time, and now I’m looking at the specific (and measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) goals I want for my art practice. And here’s the thing. I realised, in this process, that what I want most of all this year is to raise the QUALITY of my work. It’s not about numbers of paintings made/ sold/ exhibited; newsletter subscribers or social media followers. More than anything I want to feel, by the end of the year, that my paintings are ‘better’ than last year.
Since March last year I’ve not had the benefit of the peer and tutor support of my colleagues on the Porthmeor Programme; I came to the end of my self prescribed three-year alternative art degree (wherein I chose the courses and workshops that I knew I would be interested in/ benefit me). So I’ve had my first few months of self-accountability. My confidence has been bolstered by some good sales, acceptance to the RWA and a gallery and some great feedback BUT I’m conscious that it’s all too easy to slip into a routine of painting, if not by numbers, then FOR the numbers. And primarily, I just want to make good work.
So, how on earth do I hold myself accountable to this? I have a delicate path to tread. I need to be honest with myself, I am after all ‘my own expert’ and know more about my work than anyone else. (Which doesn’t necessarily make the job any easier). But I can’t afford to give the inner critic carte blanche to lay into every move I make.
I’ve given considerable thought to how I can manage this. Firstly, I’ve resolved to review what has sold and look closely at the work, and to understand what has worked in each piece. I also intend to keep a more rigorous and consistent Studio Diary, a practice which I have dabbled with on and off.
I’ve also come up with a Checklist, to allow me to look closely at the work I have made. Jessica Serran, my mentor on the Becoming Artist programme, encouraged me to sit with my paintings for a while- a long while- to start a conversation with them. In time they will tell me whether they are ready or not to go out into the world. It may sound a bit ‘woo’, but it works. But I do like my ‘woo’ spiced with a bit of rational left-brain thinking, so I made a checklist.
(A few years ago I would have run trembling from such a checklist, but my aim now is to introduce a bit of objectivity to my self-assessment, helping me be aware of my own strengths, development over time and will hopefully enable a more detached critique than the voice inside my head.)
These are the questions I will be asking myself.
If you are an artist yourself, please feel free to print and adapt for your own use, and by all means, let me know what you would add- or take away…
If you’re not an artist, but an art lover, consider that these are also factors to judge art by. I don’t imagine you’ll be printing a checklist to wander around a gallery with, but it may you might look at the art you are drawn to and understand what it is about it that works for you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!