How many of you have peers that can offer you support as an artist?
While I lived in Dubai I had art teacher friends who could help me when I felt stuck with an artwork. They’d give me advice on skill-based decisions, help me as I contemplated meaning and message, etc. One friend was super helpful to have around: she was always honest about what she liked with my work and if I had a question about a compositional decision, or a color choice, she’d really give time to the problem and offer amazing feedback.
While we stay in touch, I miss the ease that came from a shared city and spending time together. Our art critiques were never scheduled, more an informal as needed conversation. Thank goodness for WhatsApp: our message boxes are periodically filled with pictures and discussions about goals and meaning.
Moving here and feeling somewhat separated from art and entrepreneurial community I found other ways to seek it out. One of them was to listen to Entrepreneur on Fire while I make art in the morning. Jonathan Lee Dumas, the podcaster, always shares a quote each and every podcast:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
As I listened those podcasts raised my standard as an entrepreneur. They helped me realize how much I want meaningful connections with the people I serve (yes, that’s you), and that there are other people out there doing the good work too. I’m not alone.
What about my art?
The interactions we have with people around our art are telling. As is telling someone you are an artist. I had a “friend” tell me she didn’t believe I was an artist until she came to my house and saw my artwork on the walls.
Ask yourself: are your friends helping you grow or holding you back from your creative dreams? Are you surrounding yourself with creatives who raise your level of creative standard?
3 Signs you need to protect your creative interest:
(1) Your friend never says anything positive or supportive about your work.
(2) You hear dialogue from loved ones that says things like:
- “What a cute/nice/insert patronizing word here hobby” you have.
- “Is there a reason you are making this?”
- “That’s not art, that’s craft.”
(3) You feel you have to justify your decision to make art to your friend.
Friends come in all shapes and sizes. And not all friends are meant to be art friends, those kindred spirits who truly get the desire and passion to create. And that’s okay. I repeat, that’s okay. What you do need to take care of is your art. This may mean sharing limited information about your art, or nothing at all with some of your loved ones, to protect your creativity. It’s more important that you create than navigate the confusion someone else has about art.
In addition to our non-art friends, it is valuable to seek out friendships that will raise your creative bar.
For those of us who studied art in school, I’m sure you remember group critiques. I really valued those times and was always disappointed when no one spoke up. I didn’t realize how important they were to my work until I didn’t have a community of artists to work with, to help me grow and learn.
For those of you who didn’t study art in school, there are other ways you may have discovered the benefit of community. Perhaps you have an amazing local art center with teachers that foster community and connection, where peers have developed skill and artistic voice side by side. Or perhaps you’ve been on the art fair circuit, meeting like minded people and those connections have fostered the artistic development you seek.
Here and there I’ve found people with art interest to connect with and sometimes bounce ideas off of, but never again have I found those moments of consistent critique (and accountability!) with other visual artists.
What it means to raise the bar.
Before I moved to Oman I practiced yoga but I wasn’t really tested in my practice until I reached Muscat. I’d show up to classes where everyone else could do headstands, touch their toes and do jump backs and jump throughs while I was still just trying to touch my toes. At first it made me feel inadequate (“I’ll never get there.”).
No one judged me, in fact all I ever heard were encouraging comments. While I learned a lot from all of the many teachers I had, it wasn’t until I moved to Oman and really raised my bar of expectation that I saw my skill in yoga grow.
I started going to an Ashtanga class, having no clue what that meant (think physically intensive yoga with prescribed recipe of practice). I was around these amazing, talented women who had more strength and flexibility than I thought I could ever have: their practice really was a notch above mine.
But the space is a community and I was encouraged and supported through my own practice and self-discovery. And over time, the poses got easier; I realized I was naturally able to do some poses that others couldn’t, even though I still can’t always touch my toes.
It made me realize: I held myself back by not surrounding myself with yogis who set a higher standard of practice. As soon as I embraced their knowledge and experience, my practice accelerated at a much different pace.
In any discipline, if we surround ourselves with people who hold us to a high standard, perhaps even higher than we feel ourselves capable of going, we reach further than we ever expect we could. Perhaps we never reach “their level,” but being around people who set high expectations and strive to achieve, well, it rubs off on everyone they spend time with, too.
There is no magic button that will help you find the right creatives to align with but we do have a choice to seek those people out to help raise our standard of creative practice.
If you are a creative who desires to grow, learn and better your skill, find other creatives you can partner with: not to create art together (unless you want to), but to chat online, share artwork, and give each other feedback and support. Don’t rely on loved ones without any art experience or knowledge, they will misguide you with the best of intention.
We make a choice to honor our desire to be creative. This means finding ways to connect and grow alongside other artists who set the standard high. It means being open to feedback and listening for those learning moments even when the comments feel hurtful. It means being open to the fact that we can always learn more.
I ache for this connection for my own artist growth and development. I’m going to sign up for some art classes locally in the fall just to build skill and explore new materials and ideas, but I yearn for a community of like-minded artists: creatives seeking to grow and take their art to another level. I am lucky to have cultivated some of that within this very community.
I want to be around artists who want to learn, seek critical feedback to better their work, and have an interest in developing and fostering their unique style and voice.
I want to be around artists who want to show their art: in galleries, in self made shows for family and friends, at fairs, in museums, to their own community and clients.
I want to be around artists who share ideas about promotion and skill development, not because we all want to sell our art, but because it helps us all grow and learn; it helps us understand how and why we create the art we create.
I want to be around artists who don’t feel the need to compete with each other, but see the benefit of lifting each other up: our unique artwork and voice cultivate different viewers with different interests.
You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time around. Who are they for your creativity? Is it time to raise the bar?
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: I’ve created a special space for artists seeking to raise that bar. If you want to be part of a community that lifts you up, celebrates your artist growth, learning and success, that will offer feedback on your art and hold you accountable to your creative dreams sign up here: be the first to know.