This past year I completed a mentorship program with artist and teacher, Nicholas Wilton. It was during the latter part of 2013 that I found myself adrift and decided that I needed to shake things up. This is the first part of the story of how I found myself again…..through my art practice.
I get asked this question all the time. Why? Why did I feel like I needed to be mentored?
In thinking about my response to this question, I went back to my application for the program. At the time I was really desperate for something to shift my energy and attitude around my work. Over the years of working as an exhibiting artist, with local gallery representation and testing the waters further afield with a gallery in Toronto, I started to lose track of why I was painting.
I found I wasn’t able to focus on my painting. I was constantly working at getting the next opportunity to show my work, and yet with declining economic times, art sales had dropped off and several galleries had closed. It seemed like the hardship of being an artist was starting to infuse my art practice and I was becoming uninspired, purposeless and somewhat confused.
This showed up as avoidance of the actual studio work. Every time I stepped into the studio to paint, I’d be flooded with feelings of discouragement and a low grade anxiety that taunted me to just try to work at something that seemed to be going nowhere. Sometimes I succeeded in pushing through and a lot of times I just ducked out.
It was a frightening feeling and something I had never experienced with my art. My painting had always been a place of fulfillment and freedom. Sure there was a certain tension in the form of resistance that I have had to come to understand, and even embrace, as a working artist. But this was more than that. Something had really changed for me and I wasn’t completely clear what it was all about. I just knew it felt like disconnect and struggle. Truthfully, I felt like I had abandoned myself on some level.
What I did know is that I wanted to be challenged again. To grow and be pushed. I wanted to gain strength in my work and confidence in myself. I wanted to find my way back to what it felt like to paint for the sake of just painting, not because I had a show on the horizon. I wanted something to open me up and clean my insides….fill me with potential, possibility and hope. I wanted to be inspired and alive and I wanted the work I was doing to feel more alive as well.
When I read Nick’s invitation to the program I just knew it was right for me….and it may not be for everybody. But, I could feel an uncontrollable impulse to do it. Even though it was a long way from here…Nick’s studio is located in Sausalito CA, I wanted to be somewhere completely different. A new art environment, with new approaches and ideas about how to make good paintings. And, there was also support for the business end of being a professional artist.
The business of art is often something artists have to struggle along with, finding out through experience what works and what doesn’t work. And, it’s changing so much right now….so much more is required of an artist. Gone are the days where you can lock yourself away in your studio and expect your gallery to promote your work. So this, too, was part of my need. To understand how to shift myself from the private place I love to be in, to the more transparent, putting it out there kind of artist. Being seen. Being vulnerable.
So, during the seven months of the program there were many layers that Nick and I peeled away so that I could look at what was really going on for me. Some of it I thought I’d already conquered years ago…but it turns out there was more. So much more….that is for the next chapter of this story.
Thanks so much for being here…and please do let me know if you’ve ever felt this way with your own art practice…and what might have been helpful for you. I would love to hear about it.