Mixed Media Artist Carol Sesko hosted a group critique last week at The Rock in Truckee, where she is currently exhibiting her paintings. It was my second critique with Carol, and I loved it. It's soooo helpful to be amongst creative people for a couple of hours, talking about your processes, hopes and fears, marketing, exhibitions, techniques...and so much more.
What's interesting is the diversity of our output doesn't make a spot of difference when we're discussing the emotional and practical aspects of making a career in art. We had a poet, a few painters of different styles, a couple of mixed media artists, and an illustrator.
The format went as follows: we each bring a piece of work to show the group, which we might need help or encouragement with. Each member introduces their work, and the group gives feedback. That's it. And it's great.
This blog actually helps me to organise my thoughts about my practice, more so than a private journal, because I have to consider my audience, as well as dig into my own soul to provide some sort of context to my work. I know a lot of artists don't agree with talking about the 'craft' of art, but I've found the internet to be immensely helpful in improving my technique and studio practice.
I've become especially fond of YouTube artists demos. The main thing I've learnt from that is that it's OK for a painting to go through a period of looking a bit crappy, because you work through that, and your 'ugly duckling' can become a swan if you stand back enough, evaluate your painting, correct the mistakes, be willing to wipe it down, and have faith in your ability to make it the best painting you've ever done.
Something which came up in the critique which was a relief to me (to know that others share my slightly schitzoid tendancies), was that looking at other people's work, often we go home and try out their style. If that happens often enough, it gets really confusing, and suddenly you don't know who you are any more. I wrote about that recently on this blog, illustrating it with my unmovable image of Derek Zoolander looking in the mirror going, "Who am I?"
The conclusion I've come to, is that if you're not disciplined enough to maintain your style in the face of all the other exciting styles out there, just incorperate a little tiny bit into your work, and see where that goes. You can't not have influences, we don't live in isolation from the world, history, other artists, etc., so I think if you're particularly chameleonic, (like me) the best you can do is try and stay true to yourself - having learnt from others, and absorbed the best and most relevant lessons to you, go back to the drawing board, and forget everything.