Building an art practice whether through school or on your own is not the easiest of things. It takes time and energy, and the action of discarding and keeping habits and practices that keep you going. I like to build my practice in a way that each step informs the next and then brings it back to a circular way. I have built my art practice on three building blocks: research, exploration and discovery.
What does research look like? Research as an artist takes on many forms. Sketches, collages, photography, surveys, articles, can all be research. Essentially research is something that informs your practice, but may or may not make it into the final cut. In my practice I use Pinterest as a way to research visual material for texture and form, none of the visual material derived from there makes it into the final work, but I use it for inspiration. The main purpose is to give me, “permission”. What do I mean by that? Sometimes you might not pursue work because you aren’t sure that its a) acceptable to you as art and b) acceptable to professors as art. Visual material gives permission and acts as art history for what you’re making and building. Research also acts as a spring board. While you aren’t making the exact thing you are researching, the material you look at and record gives you a launching point for new work.
My second step is exploration. I really don’t think that art schools give enough credence to playing and exploring. If we aren’t exploring and playing then we reduce art making to the work of a factory. We should be sketching, sewing, collaging, exploring new materials, questioning how we can use new materials and such. When we begin to get outcomes that we are happy with we replicate those and then vary the ways that we can display them. I like to look at design for new and interesting ways to display work. Exploring should really be an opportunity to play around and get different variations of things even if they don’t make it into the final outcome. Final pieces that are really good often have so many crappy ideas behind them. Don't be afraid of the bad ideas, it’s part of the process often a bad idea is a starting point. Start with the bad idea, set something in motion, you’re much more likely to get an outcome, because it was set in motion.
The third step is the discovery. I like to see this as a final outcomes from your research and exploration. The discovery is the “ah ha” moment from the exploration, the crux of the idea being expressed in a way that works well both aesthetically and conceptually. Usually the discovery is one or two pieces that begin the launch of an exhibition or a body of work. Eventually, the discovery after it is finished finds its way back into the research pile most likely informing the next thing that you will make. Its the life cycle of work.
How about you? Do you have any pillars that you build your art practice on? Let me know in the comments below!
Oh hello, welcome to my blog, hacking a BFA. Is it an academic blog or is it just an art blog? I don't really know. Some of this might be relevant to art students only, some of it relevant to art amateurs......does it really matter? I invite you to treat this blog as an art buffet. If you want something more in depth...its here, something more geared to art newbies....it's here. Enjoy!
Melissa Cayford is an artist, designer and educator bent on making art and art education more accessible.