Artistic Development

Artist Vickie Pierre

There are many ways to develop your artist-self. Mostly we think about growing our technical skills … honing our craft. Often that is achieved by years and decades of practice—trial and error, experimentation, repetition—alone in one’s studio. This process can be enhanced by critical reflection and research. What kinds of questions can you ask ourself along the way, to push your work forward?

Critical Reflection

One way to enhance your ability to evaluate your work is to become familiar with the ways in which art is discussed. When you see a piece of art, examine it critically. This doesn’t mean focussing on the negatives, but rather looking closely.

  • What draws you to it?
  • What is compelling about it?
  • What ideas does it inspire?
  • How does the form (medium, technique, scale, palette, etc.) work with the content?
  • Are some aspects less engaging and why?

These are the sorts of questions you can apply to your own work. There are many more, depending on your métier. The important thing is to take some distance and try to see your work as if for the first time. Celebrate its strengths and work on what can be improved. The goal of critical reflection is to make better work, a lifelong ambition all artists share.

What is A Body of Work and Why Is It Important?

A body of work is a series by an artist that explores a specific topic or technique. All of the individual pieces in a body of work share a common medium, materiality, style and/or theme. A body of work is cohesive and represents an in-depth artistic investigation. It reflects a unique artistic vision. When we see a body of work, we are able to enter into that vision and “get to know” the artist and their concerns. A body of work reflects a rigorous practice and commitment to specific problems/ideas.

Why should you make a body of work? To dig deep into your subject matter or medium! To push yourself to resolve things you know could be better! To advance your practice! Usually a curator, gallery or granting agency will be uninterested in a series of one-offs (diverse pieces with no connections between them), because they lack a clear, unique artistic “voice”.

The number of artworks in a body of work can vary depending upon scale and medium, but 10-20 is a benchmark. Keep in mind you may need to create more; you should not show every piece you create. Learn to edit your work down to the finest examples. Other pieces may be essential steps in your journey, but that doesn’t mean you should share them.

Techniques and Mediums

To be the very best artist you can be, it is important to grow your technical skills through practice, workshops, research and mentorship. Your local Artist Run Centres and Regional Galleries offer hands-on workshops in a wide range of media, and the internet is loaded with tutorials and technical advice.

Sometimes exposure to a new technique or medium can open up new ideas. Take classes, pick up a different tool or material and allow yourself the freedom of being a beginner again. In Winnipeg, ArtsJunktion is an excellent source of free art supplies. When we are stuck, sometimes the freedom to play helps us to unstick.

Research and Inspiration

Another way to grow your practice is through exposure to art ideas. The following videos, organized in themes, have something for everyone. Need a fresh perspective? Take in one of the recorded lectures below.