Over the past couple of months, I’ve begun research into the wants and needs of the Artist Strong community. And I’ve come to discover we go through 3 phases as creatives.
Phase 1: Thirsty for Information – Foundations or Fundamentals
This is primarily a learning phase where we feel ravenous for information. We gobble up tutorials and paint-like-me classes like they are going out of style. We want to learn techniques and work toward achieving specific effects in our art. Sometimes, art journaling serves as our entry point.
At some juncture during this phase, many experience a major life event (say: job loss, retirement, health scare) that has them considering their priorities, with a special understanding that life really can be short. They realize art IS one of their priorities and they often create space in their home to make art.
In my 20s I had to have brain surgery. And no surprise – it constituted my “major life event.” I was told I could go blind, need lifelong hormone replacement therapy, or die on the operating table. We didn’t even know if it was cancerous yet (it wasn’t).
For the first time in my adult life I made art without the agenda of social or cultural pressure. I was no longer concerned about what others might think. I made art because it mattered to me and it might be my last opportunity.
Those artworks even placed as finalists in an US nationwide competition. You can see one here:
Upon waking up from surgery with the best possible news of a full recovery, I knew I wanted to do more with my art. Despite my formal education in art and art history I still knew my skills were limited. I was eager to learn and continue creating art. That was when I started exploring what it took to establish a regular artist practice, or phase 2.
And in my ongoing research it appears 2-5 years after setting up that studio, the tutorials and paint-like-me classes don’t quite cut it anymore. We start searching for classes, resources, and teachers that can help us figure out what’s next. This marks the transition into phase 2.
Phase 2: Making Time for our Art – Creating a Practice
In this phase, we start to think about how we are using our time and just how much we want to show up for our art. Creating a regular practice feels important and valuable to us, not only for continuing to improve our skills but also for developing the unique ideas we imagine and struggle to put on canvas or paper.
While the desire to dedicate regular time to art exists, feelings of insecurity about skill levels and the guilt associated with prioritizing art sometimes creep in. Questions like “what’s next?” and “why are we making art anyway?” emerge.
After my brain surgery and recovery, I looked at life from a different perspective. And when the teachers around me shared stories of teaching internationally I asked, “Why not me?” I took a leap and moved by myself to Dubai to teach elementary art. It was while I was in Dubai I started building a serious practice and began questioning my artistic voice and message.
I discovered galleries hosting open calls for art and used them as a starting point to explore different ideas and themes in my art. These opportunities provided structure and imposed deadlines so I knew what to work on when I showed up in my studio.
Here you see me with a work at my first group exhibition in Dubai:
We have more skill at this phase than previously but still struggle with calling ourselves artists. (Despite having studio space in our home!) And we want to have a clear voice and a unique style that shows through, but we can’t recognize it yet, nor do we know how to find it and develop it further.
It is at this juncture that we begin to explore phase 3, with a specific emphasis on creating original art.
Phase 3: Finding Your Voice – Creating Original Art
Phase 3 centers on the development of our artistic voice. We understand that we can acquire any necessary skills or techniques and are willing to explore new ideas and take creative risks.
We start looking for a method, path, or approach to voice development. We hear things about creating a series of art but don’t want to feel boxed in by one style or body of art, either.
I spent 6 years in Dubai mainly in phase 2. It wasn’t until the end of my time there when my husband and I moved to Muscat, Oman, that I began to consider creating art in a series.
I had some ideas, but they felt derivative (meaning not really a unique idea, and heavily influenced by others). Instead of using that as a sign to stop making art I decided to make that art anyway. That’s exactly what led me to my first series of original artwork, entitled Anonymous Woman, and my first solo exhibition.
You see me stitching into one of those paintings here:
The art that initially made no sense in my head or that my inner critic deemed not “good enough” ultimately guided me to the work I am proud of today.
The uncertainty surrounding how to explore our artistic voice can sometimes lead us to question our commitment and regular practice, limiting our artistic output.
Paradoxically, we are aware that creating art makes us happier and healthier. Loved ones often encourage our artistic endeavors, recognizing the positive impact it has on our mood.
So what does it look like to achieve results?
That’s different for each person. Ultimately, the overarching goals shared among us seems to include:
- Committing to regular artistic practice.
- Translating ideas from our imagination onto paper or canvas.
- Having people recognize our work as ours because of our unique style (without being boxed into one style for life).
- Taking pride in sharing our art with loved ones and potentially a wider audience.
And the good news is none of this has to take you the decades it took me.
Here I am with a recent piece, part of a series under development:
If this resonates with you, and you’d like to contribute to this conversation, I’m looking to initially speak to 50 people in the community about these phases and our goals as creatives. Once I reach 50 conversations, I plan to continue with 4 calls per month. To be clear: this is not a sales call, this is research to support the humans who choose to be here.
Take a peek at my calendar and choose a time slot that works for you here:
This is just the beginning of my research. By engaging in 15-minute conversations with you, I aim to gain a better understanding of your creative journey. Why speculate on what you might need from Artist Strong when I can ask you directly?
Remember: proudly call yourself an artist.
Together, we are Artist Strong.