How to improve your art journey

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Looking at yourself and where you want to go

Some of you will know that I have a Zoom meeting every Sunday evening with three fabulous ladies who live in three different countries to me: Hungary, Switzerland and the USA. They also produce work which is very different to mine but our bond is strong and comes from a marketing course we all took about five or six years ago.

Each week we discuss our achievements and our failures as we ask advice from each other in an attempt to become better in so many ways: better artists; better business owners, better at social media, packaging our work, record keeping, exhibitions. The list goes on. This week one of the ladies set us a little quiz. This can be applied to any field of work you are engaged with but it will help you to focus on your route forward.

Japanese embroidery by Cecilia Rogers

It may help if I first explain about how different our art is. One lady is a master (should that be mistress?) of Japanese embroidery. Her work is stunning, takes hours to produce and at the end of the day not many people realise its value. Her love of all things Japanese has also included experimenting with: Boro (repairing damaged textiles through patching or stitching to extend their useful lives.); Kumihimo (the art of making braids and cords); Sashiko (traditional Japanese embroidery used to decorate cloth or clothing); and Kintsugi – repairing broken objects, often ceramics, with gold to make them beautiful again, though not necessarily functional. Kintsugi literally means ‘to join with gold’ and is practiced as a reminder that when things start to fall apart we should stay optimistic and celebrate the flaws of life.

Another lady is all about romance and roses. Her background is as a fashion designer loving couture from Paris as well as the golden days of Hollywood. She paints pictures of princesses in beautiful gowns, and also roses, which are a great passion of hers, and creates beautifully romantic environments for people to live in.

Sadly, the other lady in our group was unwell this week and unable to join us but I was the third person on this call and my work stems from circles, which I view as hugs and which I paint using acrylic. I also love printmaking where I use more realistic organic items, like fish, flowers, etc and I also make leather-bound journals.

Stunningly beautiful and a total romantic.

What none of my little group realised until this last meeting was that I love painting portraits and have only left this off the table as most galleries want artists who paint in just one style. They are not interested in many of the other things we artists might engage in. I have long felt that this is a huge mistake and I always encourage other artists to try different artforms.

Anyway, back to the quiz. We were asked just three questions:

  1. Who are the top three artists you admire and why?;
  2. What three things do you dream about in my career as an artist?; and
  3. Name three areas where you spend the most money in your art career.

Now, as you can imagine, because of the different backgrounds each of us comes from, our answers were very different.




My answers were:

1, Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent, Sorola and I just had to include Henry Moore. This was also a surprise to the others because they didn’t realise how important sculpture is to me. I know the question asked for three but I just had to have four and could probably name 10-15 other artists I admire for a variety of different reason including Klimt, Da Vinci, Matisse, Gauguin, Yayoi Kusama and Tracy Emin.

2, I dream about being well known as an artist so that I attract more clients.

I dream that my work will be seen, enjoyed and purchased by more people and I dream about having my work hanging in one of the palaces or residences of our royal family (they say dream big, so I did).

3, Initially, I could only come up with two areas but my the first of my three is exhibition stands, although I am pulling back from the big shows, simply because they are really only vanity galleries and I am not happy about giving the organisers tons of money where’s there’s little chance of making any sales. The second place I spend lots of my money is on education. I spend a fortune, both with my BA work and going on courses to learn about more of what I already do, but also to learn about other disciplines. More about this in a moment. Lastly, equipment. I have plenty of supplies so these days I don’t spend that much but I can’t help visiting Sea Whites on a regular basis, particularly when I am teaching.

The hugs/circles I love to create.

Just a note here about taking classes with other artists or other disciplines. I alluded to this when I made the comment about galleries only wanting their artists to produce one kind or style of work. Personally, I feel that every artist would benefit from taking classes in something completely out of their comfort zone and nothing like the work they already produce. I have noticed that the artists I admire the most have a broad knowledge of art in general, having taken or in some cases are still taking, classes in different subject areas.

Spending a day making lino cuts, organic dying of fabric or with an artist who gives lessons on their approach to their work, can be filled with all manner of tips and advice which can be used not only to bring something new and fresh to your artwork but also to open your mind to other possibilities. However, I do also appreciate that running a gallery means that you have a list of clients who are looking for specific styles of art and they need to know that their artists can deliver what their clients want. It is a business, after all.

So, how to view the answers? Well, as I said above, my friends were not aware of my love of portraiture or sculpture. I may have mentioned these things over the years, but until you are asked to scale down or focus on a small number of somethings, the realisation of their importance is often lost on others, and possibly on you as well.

The desire to have more clients was something we all three shared. This is not surprising really. We are all in it to make a living from what we love to do, so having clients and having our work seen in important places is something we all dream about.

Clearly, as we all have very different art forms just where we spend our money differs, although we all spend a fair bit on education. We learned that the lady who loves Kintsugi visits the local tip/dump/rubbish collection site on a daily basis, looking for items she can repair and give new life to. The lady who loves roses, I hadn’t realised, has a husband who buys her roses two or three times a week. She lives in the Mojave desert, California, surrounded by sand, so roses bring her great joy.

All three having answered the questions raised we were then asked to think about how we want people to see us. I am not going to share the others’ answers, but my response was that I want to be respected as an artist. This was interesting as it is also what I require in my day-to-day life, something which has only become apparent in the last few years. Respect is hugely important to me and I hadn’t really realised how that feeling had spilled into other areas of my life.

This little exercise is something you can do yourself regardless of what you do in the way of artistic or creative endeavours. Ask yourself these same three questions and identify: three people you admire who do what you do; three areas of your career you dream about; and three areas you spend the most money on in your area(s) of interest.

Then think about how that all makes you feel and what you want from the world. Like me, you might even surprise yourself.


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