Integration and Authenticity

One of my big goals for this year is to have a lot more contact with people who may be interested in my art, or me as teacher and coach. So, I’m doing a lot more videos on Facebook and Instagram, posting more regularly about what I’m up to. However, as there is only so much time in a week, it has meant I’ve been doing less writing. A recent short video on IGTV (You can see it here) on how to find integration and authenticity as an artist has prompted me to the laptop as I really wanted to say more about the ideas I was talking about, so I thought I would expand on the video with some more information in a written post.

The image above is how I have been thinking about how we develop as artists. I also use it to guide me when coaching and teaching artists. I find it useful as a way of thinking about what we might need to pay attention to in our learning. Each of the overlapping circles represents different aspects of being an artist. Our inspiration, how to draw and paint – or the theory of art, and our art practice. Finally, the surrounding and all encompassing circle of our artist mindset or the person themselves.

Looking at each of the elements in turn and in more depth.

Artistic Inspiration

On one level our inspiration can seem to be quite obvious, “I like buildings,” “I like landscape.” However in this area it can be very helpful to take that to the next level and dive deeply into the depths of your inspiration. As we explore in some detail what it might be about landscape or buildings that is inspiring, we are likely to discover more. When we take a close look at the what, how and why of our inspiration we understand more about ourselves and our work. To ask the question why and keep asking it until you can go no further in your answers can reveal useful information and ideas.

Theory of Art

Looking next at theory of art this is often about how to draw and paint and where many artists start. This circle represents all of the bed rock skills we need to grasp as we set out in our artistic journey. Included in this area is learning about materials, composition and design, colour, texture. All of the practical skill needed to make paintings whether they are representational or abstract. There is a huge body of knowledge that we acquire over the years and this never ends. Lots of arts workshops fit into this category, for example how to paint landscapes, how to collage, use watercolours, do printmaking etc.

Art Practice

If theory of art is about the technical skill of drawing and painting then the circle of Art Practice is about how we go about actually making our art. This area can include everything from how we lay out our studios, through all of the many practices that we put in place to support ourselves as artists. Practices like how we use our sketchbooks, keeping our inspiration alive with regular gallery and museum visits, looking at and reflecting on others work, peer group discussions, creative playing, the frequency, priority and time we give to these activities.

The heart in the centre of the model represents the integration of these three elements. It is through integration we can get to a place of authenticity and the heart of who we are as artists. We can know the theory of art – how to paint and have a good art practice but without a solid connection to our inspiration our work may lack consistency and strength. It might be technically accurate yet lacking in soul.

When we know our inspiration and theory of art our work might be full of soul, consistent and technically good but we might struggle to develop our ideas and make work regularly and consistently without a solid art practice to underpin what we are doing.

Finally we may have a good art practice and be connected to our inspiration but without the technical understanding we may struggle to create works that are strong and appealing visually. We may also have difficulty in being able to critique our work and know how to make it better and stronger.

Integration

Hopefully these examples of what can happen when only two elements are aligned demonstrates how the integration of all three is key to making strong authentic work. We need to have technical skill to make the work, to be able to critique it to make it stronger. We need to be connected to our inspiration to know why we are making it and for it to reflect us as artists and have soul. We need a robust art practice to enable us to support ourselves in the making of the work and our own development as artists over time.

Surrounding all of this is mindset. Because even with an integration across the whole, where our inspiration, theory and practice is aligned and we are attending to all three elements, our mindset can impact on the work. If we are carrying negative messages and limiting beliefs then these can stop us in our tracks. In fact I think we are unlikely to get to a place of integration and authenticity because the messages will get in the the way of it happening.

How do we work towards integration? I think it is an ongoing process of development and self discovery. Asking ourselves questions to identify where the area of development is can help. Is it mindset, theory of art, inspiration or practice that I need to work on? However like many things this kind of process probably works better with help rather than alone. It can be very hard to see what we don’t know. A habit of regular art journaling can be useful, along with a supportive group or objective third party like a coach or teacher. Any or all of these things can be a great help in supporting and identifying what to focus on.

Sound useful? I hope so, please let me know what you think in the comments section below. If you’d like to explore this with me personally, you can book a 20 minute free chemistry check to find out more about working with me as your coach here.

And find out first about new work and what I’m to with my monthly newsletter here.

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