Robert Genn is a successful Canadian painter who is also an excellent writer. He sends "Twice Weekly" letters about art, and many of them have given me brain food to chew on. The letter that came today was about taking a second look at your work to figure out how to either move it along, or relegate it to the circular, plastic bag. The paragraph below struck me as a possible mantra for an artist.
"What could be?" might well be the artist's credo, but a different type of thinking is required than when you are painting. It's speculation mode, and you need to think outside the box--even if you don't end up going there. The human imagination is far richer than we know. Understand this, and you will need fewer books and teachers. The answer is within you. Self-anointed genius awaits all canvases. "
The reason it speaks to me is because for a long time I thought that I needed to keep building my knowledge base, and took workshops, bought books, hung out on list serves...but produced little work.
And yet, I am always happiest when I'm in the studio. So why look outside - or for validation from a teacher or juror? The process is the best teacher, and the results are only ours. It is always a real boost to sell a piece of work, or be accepted into a competitive show - but that can't be the reason to do the work, can it? The growth that comes from the process is far more rewarding. The answer is within you.
Looking for validation from others can be self-defeating. The answers are inside each of us. We have to learn to trust our inner voices, and commit to growth, rather than self criticism. As Robert Genn writes, turning a painting to the wall (or an art quilt) for awhile and looking at it with fresh eyes is a good way to grow that piece. And it is that growth that is so satisfying. When you know the answer came from within, it's a joy to get to know something about yourself, and to feel your work is successful in the way you want it to be successful. No one else can do it for you.