Mind Your Language!

“They’re a little busy.”
This week’s feedback from my new coach Sam on images of some new oil and cold wax paintings for my solo show.
When I’d sent them across to her, I’d described them as flat and a bit lifeless, they certainly needed something although at that point I wasn’t sure what.
But this comment got me thinking, and in doing so I saw I had been asking myself the question “What more do they need?”
It sounds like a perfectly reasonable question to be asking, doesn’t it? But when you unpick the language implicit in the question, I realised I was asking myself what “more” is needed. Light bulb moment!
I hadn’t understood until then when I look at my work this is frequently what I ask myself:

What more do they need?
What do I need to do?
What else?

So, language in this context is hugely important, and why wouldn’t it be?
Noticing what I was actually asking myself helped me to grasp that all of these questions are about “more,” about adding not subtracting. I’d been asking these same questions for a while; they had become a habit.  I had stopped paying attention to what I was really asking.
When I changed the question to “What can I take out?” my perspective altered entirely. Asking this question, I noticed I almost immediately began to look at the work differently. It was amazing how much my approach shifted from changing my language.

A Different Approach

I’ve previously written about wanting to take a different approach to my work. To leave more space, open things up, and pause more. Looking back, I can see that the questions I have been asking myself have probably been an integral part of this struggle, because as soon as I asked “what more” my impetus is to add not take away.
It was quite an eye-opener, the shift in perspective I experienced from asking what can I take out. Do I need this mark/shape/line? Can the painting stand without it? A big shift in my view, suddenly the process felt entirely different.
Who knew that what I needed to do was change my question and suddenly the wrestle I have been having around leaving more space and opening up my work would feel so much easier.

Are your questions a habit? What do you ask yourself? Please do hit reply I’d love to know.

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Published by Lin Cheung

I am an artist and teacher and I love working with people to help them be more creative.

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