Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ways to show your work - big and small

Sometimes I don't feel like showing my work. It might be in the early stages and not 'ready'. Or I don't want feedback to influence my direction - even positive feedback can interfere with my internal compass.

But if I go too long without showing my work doubts begin to grow. That voice starts up, 'this isn't working and it never will / you might as well give up now / and who do you think you are anyway?'

But I've taught myself not to aim for perfection. It doesn't exist. And I've learnt to head off those voices by just putting my work out there.

As artists we need to show our work - we have to if we want to keep making it. Art is for sharing and connecting with others. That's its very purpose.

So even if I don't feel 'ready' I will take small steps and then big ones to start showing my work. Here are some ways I do that.

Show Small: Show work-in-progress on social media. While something might not be ripe to show in a fully-realised solo exhibition, I might post a work-in-progress on Instagram. I like to see other artists' processes so I show mine in the spirit of sharing. By doing that I feel part of a community of artists all striving to make and share art and that helps divert the negative self-talk.

A recent Instagram post of a quick sketch which may lead to a more fully-realised work or a possible series.

Show Medium: Enter a competition or group show. If I think an idea is getting there, I might take it a step further and enter a single painting in a competition or group show. Winning the prize or selling the work is not the point. There's nothing like seeing your work on a gallery wall to help you make a decision about whether this is the direction you want to go. You see it with fresh eyes and it helps you take the next creative step.

Showing this work 'Marginalia' in the Banyule Award for Works on Paper in 2015 lead to conceptualising my recent solo show of the same name at Blarney Books & Art in Port Fairy.

Show Big: Organise a solo show. If I think a theme is emerging and I can see how my work is starting to link together I begin to look at where I might want to show that work and then I book it! It gives me a deadline, great motivation and the impetus to refine the body of work into something cohesive. It can be a little scary, but sometimes that extra push of a looming deadline is exactly what I need.

I signed the contract for my 2015 solo exhibition 'Home is Where the Light Is' at Montsalvat about 18 months beforehand - giving me time to fully develop the show and the external motivation to get the work done. Photo credit: Maria Colaidis.

Showing our work helps us make decisions about what we want to show and how we want to show it. Every showing - whether it's a quick snap on social media or a well-developed exhibition in a gallery - gives us valuable feedback about our work.

But we need to remember we should only measure our success against our own standards - not some stranger's random comment, or the fact we didn't win the prize.

If we want to keep growing as artists, we need to put our work out there and keep making art.

I'll leave the last word to Andy Warhol who said maybe one of my favourite quotes on this topic:

“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”