Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Artist And The Concept Of Progression

Two months ago I gave a lecture at the Burlington Art Centre in Burlington, Ontario. My talk was on the concept of progression as an artist. I have included my brief essay below for you to read. I have also included the progression of "Snowshoeing Study" for you to see how it developed as well.

On our paths as artists progression is a natural process that happens to all of us. The concept of progression comes in many forms. From the way we mix our paints, apply our inks, carve our pieces of wood, to how we feel about what we’re producing when we set out to make our art, progress infiltrates all facets of who we are as creative people. Without making progress we can become artistically stagnant, lacking the desire to become better creators, more self-realized and well-rounded members of our artistic community. With growth and maturation in our sights we can achieve advancement in all areas of our lives, perhaps most profoundly in our artwork.

Some forms of progression that we might consider are:

Inevitably, as our body of artwork grows, we can look back on older pieces and see where we have made mistakes, tripped and fell creatively, and hopefully learned from the experience. Our artistic oeuvres are expanding all the time. They are entities in and of themselves. They are our message to the world from the first intentional brushstroke, gouge of wood or stitch of thread. We should not look back at our first pieces as being failures or weak but stepping stones to where we are today. Without them we could not look back and see where we have come from.

When we look back at our body of work, how do we feel about what we have created? Would we have done anything differently? As we grow and mature as people, we probably feel differently about our art, the world, and our place in it. If we take a moment to reflect on how we view what we created two years ago, how does it compare with how we regard our artwork today? Emotional progression is hard to qualify and impossible to quantify, it is simply our feelings about what we have put out in the world. There is no right or wrong answer, but how we emotionally acknowledge what we have created. Emotions, by nature, wax and wane depending on life events, inspiration or any other number of innumerable factors. Only we know the answer to the concept of emotional growth in relation to our work.


What is our artistic background? What training have we done, if any? Training is not necessary to be a successful artist but we do need to hone our skills and here is where technical progression happens. If we have training, how have we used those skills to make better artwork? Have we done much experimenting, self-correcting or furthered our training? Have we used constructive criticism to identify weaknesses in technique and have we challenged ourselves to improve as a result? Technical progression is an ongoing endeavor, it is part of the craft that makes us better artists. It is almost imperceptible but it does happen through confidence and simply doing what we love to do as artists.

Narrative/Thematic: What are we trying to say with our art? What is the underlying message behind our vessels, our canvases, our etchings? Why do we do what we do? Every person has a different answer to these questions but it is interesting to look back in retrospect at our own creative narratives in relation to our art. Some artists rarely waver in their purpose but have one theme that haunts them and they must continually readdress this idea each time they pick up the brush. Others are constantly in a state of thematic flux, tackling new issues and inspirations with each individual piece. Again, there is no correct answer, but only our own personal story that we must express to the world.

All of these forms of progression form a constellation of creativity that we were, are and will become. The ebb and flow of our lives determines how we evolve as professional artists, casual dilettantes and as unique individuals. We all have tales to tell, opinions to state and feelings to express.. Where we have been is just as important as where we are headed.

"My work is purely autobiographical.. It is about myself and my surroundings. I work from people that interest me and that I care about, in rooms that I know."
~Lucian Freud

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