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Navigating the Art World

DSCF7583I wrote a recent blog aimed specifically at students sending in their first ever assignment, and today I am writing about something of interest to students packing up their work for their final assessment or who have just graduated.
The new suite of level 3 courses puts professional practice right at the heart of the output for the year, and OCA fine art students will graduate having spent a great deal of time reflecting on their own goals for their practice and ongoing relationship with their work.
Many artists struggle, once they have left a structured course environment, to continue to engage with their work and to be completely autonomous. Personally I think the answer there is to not be. We all have people who are involved in our practice, even if they are quite distant. It might be audience, other artists we admire, artists we know personally, friends who know us well enough to be a good listening ear, staff of local museums and galleries etc etc. I urge you to take this community seriously and make use of them.
I believe self motivation can be an unhelpful thing to be too hung up on. People rarely need to be self motivated. Most usually they are being paid for what they do or have someone in their lives who is relying on them to keep going. Sure, people do things they love or are driven to do, but its rare to find people for whom that is the sole motivator.
I enjoy structure and I enjoy other people, who know what they are talking about, chipping in to help me clarify my goals and achieve them. To this end I am always on the look out for courses and other opportunities for ongoing CPD.
This week end saw me in hipster central, AKA Hackney, taking part in a two day seminar on how to navigate the art world. It was a course which was in pretty deep cover – not generally advertised – and it was something which I had found because I dedicate a lot of studio time to ferreting out information (!) and selected because the artist running the course is someone of interest to me as a practitioner and because the course itself was aimed at a version of the art world that I ascribe to.
Held in Yinke Shonibare’s studio, the course was run with a small group of early and mid career artists. Maybe the information was mostly nothing new to me, but after twenty years working as an artist it is vital for me to take time out to be reminded, even have the obvious stated, in an environment where I have dedicated the mental space and time to do it, and with others who share my interest.
A recent OCA graduate, Carol Smith, shared a lead with me about an arts life coach called Mark McGuiness and today I signed up for his free 26 week pathfinder course through his website, Lateral Action. It is delivered weekly to your email and comes with extra reading and worksheets.
This course is aimed at people at all points in the journey to a creatively fulfilling life, and could be used by graduating students as well as those starting out who fancy getting ahead of the curve.
I encourage you though to do your own research and to find courses and support structures that work for you as an individual. Don’t feel that on graduation you have to have all the answers, and don’t feel that if you’re not supremely self motivated you are not a ‘proper’ artist. Being an artist is largely about resilience and creating your own solutions. Whatever you need to set up to enable you to continue to make art – that is what being an artist is for you.

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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One thought on “Navigating the Art World

  • As someone who is very self reliant I also feel the need, from time to time, to get some input. I agree you have to seek out what is important to you as an artist. I have to admit that I see art graduates who attend classes for years on end, as they can’t let go of being told what to do. Choosing specific workshops, classes and conferences is more useful than bolstering your lack of confidence. It is also important to give yourself time to follow up on what you have learned. I have sought out an artist who employs a specific technique and am going to visit her in London next week. Then, in September, I am attending a course in Sardinia. After so many years of teaching, it will be wonderful to be taught. In case you are wondering, the technique is buon fresco.

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