Learning The Craft – Why Making Art Is Only The Start

Wood Carving

image: Will Pate

Whatever art forms we choose to experiment with – and express ourselves through – in time we begin to settle on one or two that fit us better than all the others.

These become our predominant language, our way of channeling all that creative energy and all those ideas that simmer, and sometimes blaze, inside of us. They become our means of communicating to the world, in an evocative and beautiful way, all we have to say.

So naturally this means we must spend hours, days, months and years honing our craft, becoming ever more eloquent and effective in our artistic expression, getting better not only at using our chosen tools, but also in using them to speak in a way that is most purely us.

This whole element of refining our craft is a given.

Although we may, and most likely will, venture into other media, we will dedicate most of our time to our core artforms, the ones that become a seamless extension of ourselves and who, and how, we are.

What we tend to overlook though, is that making the art itself is just the beginning of being an artist.

We’re not born instantly masterful with a paintbrush, a pen, a camera, a clarinet, our brains or our bodies.

Similarly, we’re not born knowing immediately how to best gather and record our ideas or deal with inner resistance.

We don’t automatically know the best time to create, the structures and routines that will support our creativity most effectively, and the ways to avoid getting overwhelmed by too many projects, too many options.

We don’t realise immediately the most powerful and flexible way to fit this whole experience of being an artist in with the rest of our lives, our other commitments, our families and our fears.

We are artists, and we are human.

We thrive on learning, we have the most incredible capacity to try new ideas, plans and approaches, find which elements work best for us, embed them in our lives, then move on, always tweaking and adjusting.

We know when something doesn’t work so well, when it pushes against our natural tides and leaves us off balance and unsettled. Then we take this new knowledge too, apply the teaching, and continue to evolve, becoming gradually ever more graceful and competent at being ourselves.

This is what it means to be a human, living artist.

We don’t leave the womb being expert artists. Or expert human beings. We learn step by courageous step.

It takes time. It takes a lifetime.

Let’s be honest about that.

So, the next time you catch yourself saying: “I should know how to do this, I should have it all perfectly figured out by now, I’m supposed to be an ARTIST!”, just stop, take a breath and give yourself a chance.

Be kind to yourself, remember that we’re all here constantly learning. It’s an adventure where we sometimes don’t know what the next step will be, let alone how the next seven chapters will unfold, or how our story will look years from now.

Allow yourself space and time. And, perhaps most importantly, give yourself the permission to learn and hone your craft, and the compassion to learn and hone how to be you.

 

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