Ask Another Question
What’s on your mind?
Do you have a question about your art practice, but don’t know who to ask?
Here’s your opportunity!
In the next few blog posts I am answering artists’ questions. If you would like your own question to be considered, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are three recent questions from artists.
How do you know when to suggest that an artist try a new medium, instead of staying with safe, familiar materials?
- Needing Something New
The answer to your question is hiding in the words you choose to ask it. When you describe your materials as safe and familiar, it probably means that you are no longer growing or challenging yourself. Try to remember what it felt like when you first created the art that now seems so predictable. Were you experimenting and having fun? Did you have any idea how it would all turn out?
Try to recapture that spirit. Play with new approaches to familiar themes. Find out what excites you now. You might want to make a number of subtle changes in your technique, or perspective, or color palette, instead of shifting to a whole new medium. When you let your work develop slowly and organically, your art will reveal what it wants to become.
Since I’m an introvert, it is difficult for me to talk with people at shows and other events. I know it’s important to connect with people, but it is just so hard for me! How can I get better at this?
Many artists need help learning how to talk about their art, but introverts and extroverts face opposite challenges. Extroverts enjoy interacting with people because it gives them energy. For introverts, solitude is your energy source, and too much social stimulation can be overwhelming.
Before a social event, spend time alone planning what you hope to communicate. Make notes, and then practice with a friend or in front of a mirror. Repeat a few key phrases about your art. What is it about? Why do you make it? You might look at your artist statement for inspiration.
When someone talks to you at a social event, don’t get serious right away. Introverts tend to think that “small talk” is a waste of time. But talking small about travel or children or hobbies helps you learn about the big stuff: people’s interests, tastes, and circumstances. You will discover how to connect your art with their lives.
Remember, extroverts don’t always have an easy time of it. Their love of talk makes them so relaxed in social settings that they lose focus. I recently overheard an artist talking about her dog to a dog-loving gallery owner. She got so enthusiastic she forgot to mention her art.
As an introvert, you should try to speak with people one or two at a time. If you get overwhelmed, take a break. Get a glass of water and breathe for a few minutes. Look at your notes, calm yourself, and go back into the fray. Practice will build your confidence.
How can I focus on doing one thing well? I tend to be very scattered and do a number of different things. Do I focus on spending time in the studio, or making art products, or taking online classes, or giving workshops, or . . . what?
- All Over the Place
Dear All Over,
Artist never do only one thing, but it sounds like you are juggling a number of activities without knowing how they all fit together. The source of all this work, of course, is YOU. What do you want to be known for? What is your primary purpose? If you could spend a day doing only one thing, what would it be?
Try this exercise. On a big piece of paper, create a small picture of every art activity that takes your time. Sketch them or use an image clipped from a magazine. Then draw lines and arrows to show how each effort connects with the others. Your messy diagram should start to reveal a pattern. How many of the arrows lead to the same activity? This is your core. It might be teaching, or selling, or the art-making itself. Notice the outliers, where the activity isn’t connected to anything else. This might be the effort that has outlived its usefulness.
When you identify the core of your work, try spending twice as much time on it every day. Do this for a week, and see how you feel. You will be strengthening the heart of your art practice, and less important activities will fall away.
What’s Your Question?
Please send me a question that has been on your mind recently. Send it to email@example.com.
All the best,
Mary Edwards, Ph.D.
I’m a Career & Life Coach for Artists. I’m based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but work with artists throughout the United States and all over the world.
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As an artist coach, I bring a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to my practice.