When I first began art school two years ago, I had so many trepidations. I didn’t know if, as an older learner, I would have trouble learning something so totally different from what I had done before. I didn’t know if I would measure up to my classmates, especially those who had done art their whole lives. And I had no idea what to expect.
Now that it’s over, I am navigating post art-school life as a civilian. I feel that I’m in the intermediate stage as an artist. I am no longer a beginner but I am not yet advanced. My sketch-book work lately is a lot more focused on shoring up my weaknesses. I’ve been focusing on portraits – various head angles, ears, noses, etc. And I start a new job on Monday, an office (day) job to support my art, which was an important first step for my post-art-school-life.
So, life after art school is looking pretty much like I expected it to look. I’m interning in a gallery, practicing and improving my art, and working a day job. But I had been starting to feel as if I was going through the motions. I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired by anything and I couldn’t figure out what I wanted my next body of work to focus on. I was feeling blocked. Then I remembered Julia Cameron.
Julia Cameron is the author of The Artist’s Way, and many other books on the subject of “recovering” as an artist, rediscovering one’s latent creativity. This book was absolutely indispensable to me when I first started art school. Julia helped me weather critiques and develop art that came from my soul, rather than art that was designed to please professors or impress classmates. I consider her my first art teacher, and I will always read and re-read that book for the rest of my life.
Julia’s two main recommendations are to write “morning pages” and to take yourself out on “artist’s dates”. Morning pages are 3 pages that are written in the morning, kind of like a journal, to download your thoughts and clear your mind. You can write about anything and everything, whatever comes to mind. You don’t worry about what it sounds like, grammar, etc. and it is unnecessary to even read them over. The artist’s dates are solo trips designed to inspire. These dates are important and should be scheduled once a week. You can do anything you think might spark your sense of play, and stoke the creative fire within. I have done things like go to the toy store, buy stickers and markers and scribble like a child, go to a museum, etc.
This afternoon my artist date was a trip to the craft store. Fine artists sometimes turn their little noses up at “crafts”, but this is silly. When we were children, everything was a potential art project – coloring books, walls, empty boxes; everything was a potential canvas. Children are fearless, innovative, and bold. They don’t get creative blocks. If no one is around, they create tea parties with their stuffed animals, build towering forts out of newspapers, and slay dragons that only they can see. These are the true artists.
As adults, we have to make an effort to maintain that spirit. It is very possible, but it requires us to silence our inner critic and embrace our inner child. Our creativity is like a secret hidden lake that only we know about. If we don’t take care of this secret lake, it’ll get grown over and disappear. But if we take care of it and use it regularly, we get to play in it for the rest of our lives.
So my advice to all artists is to never grow up. Yes, pay your bills. Yes, be responsible. Yes, be an adult – but don’t ever grow up. Don’t try to makes sense of everything that happens. Don’t try to do everything perfectly. Don’t plan so extensively that you never actually do anything. And, most importantly…
Follow your bliss! Always.
If you haven’t done so yet, please join me on Facebook. Below is my latest work in progress – in the very beginning stages. It will eventually be an abstract sculpture made out of random materials around the house. I hope to finish it within a week or two…