I would like you to do a piece of writing that has several functions, some of them optional. In fact the whole exercise is optional but I think it’s a good exercise to do periodically, to reflect on your progress! The aim is progress, not perfection, after all. If you were to aim at perfection then once you’ve reached the peak of X you’d have no place to slide down to except the slow decline into decrepitude, and from the top, you’d only briefly glimpse the other mountain peaks of Y, Z, and, oh crap, A, B and C in the distance that you’d forgotten about too. Don’t aim for perfection - aim for progress. Keep climbing, and periodically glimpse the wonders of all the mountain ranges among you and around you that you are a part of.
Don’t look down, look up. And yet - do look down! Pause and reflect on the past when you’re in a safe nook. It’s a good time to catch your breath as you need to gather energy for the rest of the climb. Writing can be daunting but it’s also an essential communication tool for an artist as you may need it in the future for statements, etc. Even if not - like writing journals, it’ll help organise and clarify your thoughts. Don’t worry, I’ll guide you through it via questions and thought prompts. Maybe if you don’t like writing you can record your voice so you’ll have an audio version of the same and use a transcribing tool. It’s best to set aside an hour or two of unbroken time with tea to do this if you can as it’ll get easier once you’ve got going. This is open-ended so write as much or as little as you want.
This is mainly for the end of year show in December but doing a reflection halfway through, ie in the summer, makes sense. So just to check in with yourself and where you feel you’re at. I’d like to put some student profiles on my teaching website. I’d also like to, if I may, use a portion of this writing for a teaching review (more below). Additionally, it’s useful material for future artist statements and that can be used firstly for your bio in the end of year show if you’re participating. Also as the groundwork for your future bios and statements and reflections. It’s a good idea to do these at least annually if not half-yearly. I’m really excited about the end of year show as for me it also marks the memories created during the pandemic, and signals what is possible beyond, too.
Questions and thought prompts:
The following questions can form part of your student profile, bio for the end of year show and the basis for future versions of the same
1. The past - before: this question helps form your bio of your artistic journey
What’s your previous experience with art?
This is perhaps an easier question as is simply factual, eg. I studied/didn’t study, etc. It can also include art you’ve seen, artists you’re inspired by, encounters with art, basically; if you haven’t been practising for long you’ve certainly been exposed to art in some form or other for a goodly while. You’ve also already answered this! I ask all my students at the beginning when getting to know them: ‘Where are you from, what’s your previous painting experience and what drew you to miniature painting?’ Also where you’re from, however you feel you want to answer this, as background is important for bios.
What drew you to art in the first place?
This question is deeper. Think right back to early childhood. Barbara Hepworth said that perhaps what we want to say is formed in childhood and the rest of our life is spent in trying to say it. I firmly believe this: that there is something essential formulated in childhood that you can’t put into words - at least I can’t put it into words - which is why I paint and make art. But: try to put it into words anyway! You’ll skirt around it and although you may not be able to hit the bullseye (verbal language is inadequate), you can still circle around it. At least we’ll know which tree you’re aiming at in the forest. And then from there, think through your life up until the 2020 pandemic, basically!
The following questions are about teaching and my relationship with you; if it is ok with you, would I be able to use your answers for a review on Facebook/Google for my teaching website?
2. The past - previous courses we’ve done together this year
In what ways do you see that you have progressed?
Spread out in front of you all of your paintings you’ve done or started! This is a really enlightening activity in itself. You’ll ‘see’ the answer to this question through this activity. I hope my teaching has helped too.
In what ways do you feel you have progressed?
This requires more contemplation; think about its impact on your life, wellbeing, philosophy etc.
3. The present - now now
What are you working on at the moment and how do you feel about your current painting?
Talk about your current painting or paintings! Have it in front of you as you write and think.
What do you find hard?
Something specific, something general.
What are you enjoying?
Specifics and generalities.
What’s your favourite colour?
Super essential question.
The following questions are open and will continue! Don’t worry if there is nothing concrete yet - there is likely not - just blurt out whatever is bubbling away underneath and treat it as a stream of consciousness. Don’t edit - just write and flow: use words like paint!
4. The future - later
What do you hope to paint next?
This can be a grand vision of future paintings or a simple next painting on the list, specifics or generalities.
What would you like to learn in 2022?
Specifics or generalities.
5. The why - why oh why?
What do you hope to do with your art?
Practically, what would you like to do, become, make, create, imagine?
Why do you paint?
Haha! I look forward to your answers ;-)
Bonus question from my eldest son. I asked him if there was anything he’d like to ask you and he said yes:
Can you paint me a yellow lotus?
Expansion: he said that when your students come to London and they visit me can they bring me their painting of a yellow lotus and give it to me and I’ll be so happy!
Haha! I replied that we cannot ask people to paint for free, you can ask your mama to do this but nobody else really. Also, he may have conflated the yellow sunflower (which I’m making for him!) with the blue lotus. So there you go! If you like, you can answer this question in words as above and I’ll feedback the answer to him!