While I was living overseas working with a non-profit org, it was regular practice to take a step back and reassess our situation to make sure we were staying on track with our values. It was an effective way to re-calibrate and keep the important things higher on our to do list rather than always reacting to the urgent. It also kept us encouraged as we reminded ourselves of why the work we did was worth it.
I find this practice very effective in regards to my art career as well. Here are 6 reflective questions I wanted to share with you. They are by no means comprehensive, so feel free to add or take away from them. I usually ask myself these questions during a transition time such as after the completion of a large body of work (I’ve just completed a series, “And the Distance Dissolves Into the Love,” which is up at the Asian American Resource Center in Austin ,TX until June 24, 2017). It helps me stay focused on what really matters to me as an artist for the long haul, which in turn helps me say no to certain projects that don’t fall in line with those values and say yes to those that do.
After the opening of this exhibit, I took two weeks of deliberate quiet, rest time. I took about 30 minutes to an hour after I dropped my son off at school. I prayed, listened to the daily office reading from The Book of Common Prayer, and had my journal open and ready. These questions helped guide my journaling time.
- Why do I make art?
- What kind of art do I want to make?
- What do I want my artistic legacy to be?
- How do I define success for myself?
- What are my strengths? Where do I need improvement?
- What brings me the most stress being an artist? What can I do about them?
- What are my goals for the next year? Five years?
After a mountaintop experience like having your first solo show, there is the inevitable adrenaline crash and, if you’re like me, feelings of aimlessness. It’s so tempting for me to do one of two things, either get busy with the next project or stop working all together.
There is an endless list of household honey-dos that need to get done that I could easily tackle, but we all know this is really just a distraction from the fact that I have no idea what I’m supposed to create next in the art studio.
There is an endless list of ideas crowded inside my brain of what I could create in the art studio that I feel I should start working on right away, but this is also a distraction in a way. Not all of those ideas are good ideas. And not all those ideas are in line with what I want to say or be as an artist.
There is also the inner critic (who is a big jerk) telling you that it doesn’t matter. Taking time to reflect will remind you of why making art is worth it.
Even though there is nothing being produced from your easel during this reflective period, I promise it is time well spent and will bring depth to your work once you get back to your easel.
You have permission to pause, reflect and contemplate.