Thursday, September 12, 2013

Finding my Artist's Voice - Chapter 3: Talk To A Mentor

What does the Hero do when they lose their way?  Why he or she consults the Wise Guru.
I have many friends in the scratchboard world (most of them virtual) but it felt weird to talk to them about the questions I had.  So I approached my acrylics teacher, who is not only an amazing instructor but also an incredible artist who's work I admire.  I asked if he would do a one-on-one consultation with me even though that's not something he does routinely.  We worked it out for the price of a private class and that couple of hours was perhaps the most valuable thing I did all year!
 "DaVinci Caricature" Digital sketch 2008 (c) Pam Boutilier
I brought all of my work - the finished, the unfinished, the good, the bad and the ugly.  I brought my portfolio, my sketchbooks... everything.  And we looked at it all together (I've posted a random sampling for you on this entry of the blog).  He was able to look with an artist's eye at my work, but also with the wisdom of someone who has been selling art for years and who has gone from highly technical drafting work to semi-abstract painting over the course of his career.  He's really done it all!
"My Charlie" Pastel 2008 (c) Pam Boutilier
What was amazing was that despite the fact I felt pulled in twenty directions with my art - the pieces that he liked the most were the ones that I felt the strongest ties to.  He even was able to help me figure out what was more 'marketable' versus what he, as an artist, was more attracted to.  Though I struggle to not let 'marketability' dictate the direction I go, it still needs to be considered.  
 "Blue Mini-dragon" coloured pencil photoshopped on scanned hand, c. 2003 (c) Pam Boutilier
I was pleased that the pieces he liked the best were the ones I was also most excited about.  This exercise helped me identify technical areas I wanted to explore further.  I confirmed that animals, specifically pets, are definitely my preferred subject matter (and when I really thought about it I realized it's not because pet portraits are potentially more marketable, but because when I look at a piece I've done I'm instantly reminded of the story behind it, and sometimes the pet themselves if I was lucky enough to meet them, and that makes me smile in my heart!).  I felt inspired to try more interesting ways of using ink and clayboard.  All the little details fell away and the main themes became very clear.  
"Tropical Fish" Coloured Pencil 2005 (c) Pam Boutilier
So if you find yourself struggling, pulled in a bunch of different directions with your art and feeling like you've lost focus and direction - find a mentor, go over all of your work - old and new, and see what pieces speak loudest.  How do they make you feel?  What came naturally, or inspired or excited you?  Is there a common theme through different media you've worked in?  Is there something that didn't turn out well but felt so great to create it?  Maybe you need to explore that for a bit?  At any rate, someone with a good eye can help tremendously in this part of your journey!

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