As we transition into the new year, it is a good idea to take some time to reflect back on our artistic accomplishments. Most painters have high aspirations. These artistic goals may be the thing that pushes us to be more disciplined with time allocation, reach for greater subject matter depth, continue to study with master painters or ultimately receive the approval of peers.
All of these are lifelong endeavors. When entrenched in the daily routines of painting, it can be easy to loose perspective of what has been accomplished throughout the year. Left unchecked, this can lead to creative frustration and depression. One of the ways I combat this is to do a year-end review.
Since the mind is capable of negating reality, I like to make a physical list. First, I start with a review of how many paintings were completed and framed. This is a lot easier to do if you have kept records of your paintings. Next, I take an inventory of uncompleted paintings that I’ve saved in the studio. The combined total always surprises me and reinforces how much time and effort has gone into my craft.
Then I review my calendar. This reminds me of the number of days spent in the activities of painting. Besides the hours actually spent in front of the easel, whether painting for myself or at an educational venue, it also reminds me of the amount of time devoted to the business of art.
Finally, I list the number of exhibitions I have participated in, any publications I have been fortunate enough to be included in, and total sales.
After assessing these trackable accomplishments, I attempt to evaluate the artistic merit of the year’s artwork, asking: Was there artistic growth? This is best done by physically comparing actual paintings. Again, the mind can often harbor fond memories of previous works that are not always rational. At the time, these paintings may have represented a major step forward and it may seem in comparison that current works are not as strong. By reviewing good photographic representations of these memorable paintings, I often obtain objectivity and realize that artistic progress has indeed occurred. This artistic review also provides a means of noticing style trends, themes, and technique preferences.
After having had this look backwards, it is time to turn one’s attention to the future. Just as many confront the New Year with resolutions of change, so too must the dedicated painter. Even if your review shows a deficit, there is no good purpose in recrimination. Assess what didn’t work and implement change. Determine what was successful and celebrate. Set your artistic goals for the New Year, be realistic about them, and remember that the real rewards are not in the total numbers but in the merit of the final paintings. I hope you all reflect on what you have accomplished in 2011 and dream of what is to come in 2012.
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