Making art can be a sweet and sour dance where doubt and deep moment of joy alternate without warning. So how to make your art great and keep on improving it?
Let me share with you what I found throughout my years of practice.
Average musicians can play key notes, even read them, it is basic. Now, when going to a concert, you expect musicians to play beyond basic and master their instrument as well as their music skills. This is a given, right? (if you are not convinced, imagine David Bowie singing off key)
The same applies to visual art.
TECHNICAL SKILLS - BE A MASTER
No matter what your medium is, you should be a master at it. To know if you have reached this stage yet, ask yourself:
Can your technique be improved in anyway?
As I enjoy creating with various tools and mediums, no matter if it is ink, charcoal or textile, I regularly take on the initiative to thoroughly deepen my knowledge for each technique I use. For weeks if not months at a time, I focus on one (not two, just one) aspect of my practice.
I set up a clear goal such as "I want to find new ways of applying ink in my paintings". But it could try well to focus on how to use colour more harmoniously, to learn a new technique of book binding, to create better gradients, to master light rendering, etc...
OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE - BE OBSESSIVE
Used to make abstract work with only a couple of ink painting techniques, I soon found it "too easy". To refresh my practice, I decided to move out of my comfort zone and change subject. I wondered what would happen if I used these abstract techniques in portraiture?
This simple change in subject became a true challenge. To add to this, I had not painted portraits in ages. Not letting go until I got it right, I became quite obsessive with it and soon enough, the magic happened.
OBSERVE - LEARNING FROM THE MASTER
To open up my practice even more, I look at masters' works. I read everything I can find on them, their life, their work, how they set up their studio, where they find their inspiration, who they read, what music they listen to, who they know, I even look for the brand of material they use, what type of paper or fabric they favour...
One of my ink painting heroes is Gao Xingjian. I have spent countless hours looking at his work to guess how he did such and such effect. If observation is an important part of the process, experimentation is the true key to success. More than once, I played with all type of papers I could find, pouring various inks of different intensity, painting with different types of brushes. Repeating, adjusting, changing, discarding, improving...
Beside the technical aspect of Gao Xingjian's work, what stays with me is his questioning towards art and his dedication to create a type of painting that did not exist before him. It keeps on feeding my practice and at each step I wonder: what makes my art different?
In the end, I have not find exactly how he paints. Instead I have found my own voice and a way to apply ink that speaks to me. I guess this is most important.
I hope this article will help you in your endeavour to make your art great. I would love to know your thoughts! Please get in touch