Nature is the source of my favorite metaphors for how artists develop. If you’ve ever tried to cultivate a garden, or even keep pots on a windowsill alive, you know that growing things is a slow and often invisible process. It takes patience and thoughtful care. You plant bulbs in the Fall and then stare at that empty dirt forever before the first tiny signs of life appear.
Every artist’s career has those moments of staring at the dirt.
There are seasons and cycles and long fallow periods in nature’s growing process. It isn’t predictable, but you have to pay attention to what growing things need. You move a pot into the sun, you add water or special nutrients, and sometimes you repot a plant that has outgrown its container.
Ask yourself, “what do I need in order to thrive?” Especially when you are stuck, or at a plateau, imagine yourself lacking basic nutrients like food, water, or sun. You might need more space or time or greater support from your community. You might need to build confidence in yourself and your work. You might need to learn new skills.
In order to grow, you also have to let things go. Flowering plants have to be pruned in order to bloom again. Gardeners cut off dead branches, they “deadhead” empty pods which divert energy away from new growth. Are you pouring resources and time into activities that no longer produce results?
Plants in pots can stop growing when their container becomes too small. Maybe your art practice is ready to grow larger, to push outside the boundaries or restrictions you’ve imposed.
Nature’s cycle of renewal is full of hope, and reminds us to look for the first green shoots of new growth.
Mary Edwards, Ph.D
Career & Life Coach for Artists
“Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People”
As an artist coach, I bring a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to my practice.