As a mid-career artist I am often called upon to mentor and teach artists and art students. The questions below grew organically out of these sessions. I realized that many people with careers in the arts and those about to embark on a path in the arts asked these fundamental questions – questions that ought to be addressed early in a career and during the different stages of a career. If they had, they would have discovered with different hindsight that they would not only have saved themselves valuable time, they may also have pursued more successful directions.
I am certain that in my own life, had I asked myself definitive questions about both my creativity and myself in the early stages of my career, I would have definitely circumvented a lot of wasted time in (and out) of the studio. This is not only confined to myself. I have spoken to many of my contemporaries who agree with me that years of wasted effort could have been avoided through asking the tough questions early on. I am certain these questions are imperative as a launching pad for in-depth enquiry into life as an artist and as an ongoing litmus test for future growth.
I consider these questions so vital, that these days I open every mentoring session by asking my students to consider and answer in their own way some or all of the following:
• Why do I want to be an artist?
• Why do I want to create?
• What do I want to say with my art?
• Is my art expression any different from my life expression?
• What is it that needs my expression so much?
• Where would I like to be in five years?
• What is the essential essence I am trying to express?
• Does my art need to be figurative or abstract & why?
• What am I willing to do to achieve my goals & express myself artistically?
• If I’m not a painter/sculptor etc. what else would I be & why?
• What am I inspired by?
• What are my long-term goals & ambitions?
• Am I able to learn from my accidents & mistakes?
• What intention do I bring to my work?
This list by no means exhausts the number and variety of important questions an artist must ask. In fact, each of the questions above acts as a springboard for greater inquiry. By no means do they need to be restricted to the visual arts sector. They can be tailored to any creative pursuit: music, writing, acting, etc. I would recommend people explore these questions, preferably before they embark on the long road of their career and then again at regular intervals. Checking in with yourself is easier than getting sidetracked during the course of your career. The earlier the artist identifies core concerns, the more successful and straightforward their career will be.