Isn’t it exciting to see the evolution of an artist through the work they make? How meaningful trips to a desert or exploring a foreign culture for example, can reveal itself in the potters latest creations in clay, or how suddenly an artists’ colour palette will change from bold magenta to quiet blues after some time living near the ocean.
“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary” Picasso
Very succinctly put Mr Picasso. Many artists indeed do diary their work through sketching, journaling or writing. All of which give depth and layers to your work when you are reaching out for added inspiration. In his latest blog, abstract artist Nicholas Wilson talks about revitalising your art, not by trawling through Pinterest or external influences, but by ‘instead looking at your life … because often your art is made in response to your life’. How true is that! How often do we look back at the work we’ve made and recall exactly the mood or place we were in when we created it? How a particular art piece you made then is no longer ‘the appropriate response to your life’ or something you feel the motivation to repeat in the same way.
I recently received a call to remake a couple of large smoke fired urns that had been broken in a client’s home. Back in the late 1990’s they had become my defining signature of sturdy hand coiled vessels. I loved padding these almost thigh high pots into shape, smothering them in combustibles and resists before subjecting them to the flames of an outdoor firing. That was then… and although quite a lucrative commission it would turn out to be, I just can’t bring myself to go back there. My heart has moved on and I know it will show in the work, so I turned the opportunity down, and referred them instead to another artist whose current work may well suit. ..
Which got me thinking about change.. So often in life (and in our art) we hold onto a comfortable past or resist a change with clenched fists. But as we all know, no matter how terrifying, uncomfortable or uncertain, change can be illuminating. As Wilton says, ‘A change that results in art that will be more like who you are becoming could shift your art and be a complete game changer for you’. I like that.
It reminds me of when Artist Matisse was confronted by physical limitations of a wheelchair; he was challenged to find another way to create his art. The dramatic departure from large paintings to paper ‘cut outs’ became a new addition to his already maturing style..
Which really is food for thought.. That if you are authentic to who you are as an artist and what you make, then you’re still you, even when you change. In ART AND MARKETING, Christine Nishiyama wrote, “Your style is just how you create your art. Everything you ever make will always be in your style, as long as you let it flow naturally.”
Responding to your inner voice, exploring new ways of mark making, experimenting with different clay bodies or ways of construction, embracing technology, or simply opening up to how your story is changing, are all ways of approaching change. And without a doubt, standing back and re-evaluating your work, gives your art a freshness that sometimes starts to fade over time.
The hard truth is that change is happening all around us and if we don’t learn to embrace it and move forward, we’re likely to be left behind. Entrepreneur and small business expert Carol Roth recently wrote an article on the stumbling blocks to change. In it she describes how we have to be willing to move back in order to move forward… “Visualize trying to jump across a creek’ she writes ‘You can’t jump standing from where you are. You have to physically move backward in order to give yourself the momentum needed to run and take that leap forward’. I like that.. I also like that by stepping back we open ourselves up to new ideas and new failures – both of which bring our art alive.
First published in CERAMICS SOUTHERN AFRICA magazine issue 17/2019