Talking to other artists, I’ve often heard the experience of creating your most important work being described as “coming home”.
These are the experiences where the media and projects you’re immersed just feel right, and the very best focus of your creative talents and energies at that moment in time.
Lost in this work, we often lose track of time, indeed we lose perception of the whole world outside of ourselves and this project. Nothing else matters.
You might also describe this as the work you were born to create.
But this kind of work doesn’t instantly fall on your lap when you set out.
Once you’ve decided to paint, you don’t immediately know whether it’s watercolours, oils, or applying paint mixed with sand and sawdust with a large spoon that’s going to be the type of painting you truly love.
So to find your true creative calling, follow these three vital steps –
When we’re first born, everything is an experiment – something brand new we’ve never tried before and can only get better at by practising.
Moving, eating, communicating, these all need to be explored and developed as we go.
It’s the same with art, but with this our age is irrelevant.
If you’ve never tried film photography or writing poetry before, it doesn’t really matter if you’re 16, 60, or beyond. It’s new to you, it’s an experiment. You’re in the same place as anyone else just beginning.
That’s an exciting place to be.
And the only way we can find out what we like, what works, what delights us, is by trying a range of things.
Pick one thing, and begin.
Once you’ve begun your experimenting, it’s time to develop your ability to listen.
I don’t mean listening to external sounds that arise, but listening to your inner voice, inner wisdom, your heart, whatever you wish to call it.
That part of you that always just knows what’s right and feels in balance and alignment when you’re doing what you’re called to do, when you’re home.
Again this doesn’t come instantly. You need that variety of experimentation we began with in step one too.
Once you try a couple of different things, you can make a decision (by listening) as to what you like best, what feels most true and worthwhile for you.
Making a comparison between two different experiences is always easier than trying to just gauge how you feel with one, especially as so much of this process involves experimenting, so there’ll be many new feelings involved.
Say you choose to try watercolour painting and oil painting and feel that the oils are much more enjoyable and rewarding for you.
Next step is to hone this further. So you might pick another aspect of oil painting, such as the subject matter, the canvas size, the kind of tools used, the location you paint in, and so on.
Maybe you try painting still life type paintings and some rural landscapes, and enjoy the latter far more. (By of course listening internally to which feels most “home” to you).
This will enable you to make another decision to experiment, honing your painting path ever narrower into what you absolutely love to do. And so it continues.
A note about honing. Personally I’d recommend not changing too many variables at once.
To use our example above, after deciding to go with oil paints, you might then try painting still life works on tiny canvases, in your spare room. As well as landscapes on vast canvases, outdoors.
When you’ve found which of these you prefer, you might not be able to pinpoint exactly what it is you do prefer.
Is it the subject matter, the size of canvas, the setting? It might be all three to some extent, but you can only find which feels most right by exploring one aspect at a time.
In the end it might be still life paintings on huge canvases outdoors that feel like your true calling. You won’t know unless you alter and hone just one aspect at a time.
A part of being an artist means we’re constantly growing, evolving, changing.
What might feel like escaping home to your most important work today, might well be different to what it was a year ago or a year into the future.
So this three step process is one to use continuously, so we don’t find our work has become dull, staid and unfulfilling. Or that we’re investing our time and energy into projects that really don’t hold any meaning or value for us (even if they once did).
Three steps then, to finding your way home as an artist – Experiment, Listen, Hone.
How are you going to begin?
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