Lesson 6-Becoming an Artist: The joy of research

It is said that the only thing that artists need to be aware is that everything changes… fashions, palettes, trends, ideas, paradigms, believes… everything is in constant change and as artists we are normally the one who note or actually signal that times are changing!  So how to keep up with those changes… well, I would say the artist is also a constant researcher.  My love for researching was ignited in my time at Universidad de los Andes, thanks to my mentor Gustavo Gonzalez (in the feature picture), he initiated me in the joy of researching when I got involved in a research project about how local leaders have sorted the problem of water supply from rivers around in Colombia.  That was a great experience in the sense of the many things that you can capture when you have your eyes wide opened!

What is research? In simple terms is to be aware of what is going on around you and have a systematic way of identifying, recording, reflecting, analysing and transforming all of that into your practice. As an academic I am used to this researching process, but, I have found that it is very useful too for this artistic journey. But with the constant bombarding of media, social networks, advertising and fashion, one can find this researching a bit overwhelming, so this is the way I have approached it.

First of all, as I’ve mentioned before the Art Enteprise has three main dimensions: making (creating, doodling, messing around, painting, sculpting…); the business part (management, project planning, financial management, strategy, marketing) and researching. This researching can be applied also to the making part, as investigate new skills, as well as to look around for similar artists and to learn from successful artepreneurs who are so generous to share their knowledge and lessons for us who are just starting. Indeed, this blog is my ¨real time¨ contribution to the process and for others who are wondering how to start.

Exhibitions: It is very important to attend exhibitions of both great and starting artists. I normally attend the circuit of galleries and museums in London: Tate Modern, Tate Britain, National Gallery, Courtauld Institute, Royal Academy, V&A Museum. The annual programming is enough to keep you busy and attending these big exhibitions adds to my education in history of art, contemporary art or simply acknowledging the great masters and mistresses who have preceded me. I also try to follow some smaller galleries, specially those big players and shakers who represent artists that I like: Victoria Miro, Richard Hagen in the Cotswolds, and some of those great galleries in Mayfair and the East End in London. This is to say a macro level of art exhibitions. But also it is important to see what is going on in my local area, with artists that are more or less like myself, perhaps a bit more famous or doing good. When attending an exhibition I normally take a sketchbook and draw a lot, trying to capture with my own line the passion of that great art. This is an excellent exercise and back home I normally write something for this blog, so it helps me to OWN and UNDERSTAND what I saw. Indeed, I like that my blog becomes a good place for others to learn or to talk about certain big exhibitions or to discover the artists that I like too.

P1050151A nice window shop in Amsterdam

Trends, Fashions and Fads. I love shopping and I love fashion and all things that shine and sparkle. I devour magazines, newspapers, facebook pages, etc., to see what is cool, what is trendy and how my own visual language engage with this trends. This is very important if you want to become a commercial artist, because it helps you to see what is happening out there, but the trick is to anticipate what is coming. So be at the vanguard! As artists we have the mission of transforming our visions into popular culture, linking images/imageries and transforming them with our own input. This is a nice thing to do if you like to walk and see people. Moreover, if you like shopping this is perfect… but it is not about shopping per se, but to go around to the lovely new trendy shops to see what is in there… the type of stationary, the type of objects, the fashion in decoration, the new palettes, the new graphics. For instance, there is a sort of revival for lettering, and you can see it in every cafe or pub, thus that mean that including lettering and typography in your designs is relevant and nice.

P1050167Hermes Scarf, depicting  London cityscape

Living so close to London is a great way to do ¨research shopping¨and I do not need to ¨spend¨ money to do so: shops like Liberty, Anthropologie, or the boutiques in Red Church Street or the Columbia Flower Market are heavens for trends and beautiful objects; but also local boutiques or department stores like John Lewis do the trick. Decoration magazines are also excellent ways to keep up with what is going on, and they normally feature artists and designers of the moment. The beautiful thing about research shopping is that you do not need to spend money (albeit you may want to buy a card or something not so expensive if yo feel like) but it allows you to scan, catch up and be aware of the trends and the fashions, and how your work engage, relate, contradict, or take to the next level. This is a lot, I know, and it is not enough just to read or to be aware, it is important to take notes, to keep a notebook with ideas, perhaps a Pinterest board with ideas that can be used later.

Business models, ideas and entrepreneurship: This is an area that also need research. Ive mentioned several times the Abundant Artist website, and it has been a great place to listen to experts, artists and creative consultants to share their wisdom in how to become prosperous and keep the joy. The book by Lilla Rogers I just like to make things is also fantastic to get to know about certain particular markets. Recently Ive been listening to the fantastic podcasts-interviews of The Thriving Artist, getting so inspired by the down to earth advice of the wide range of interviewees. These people out there are really generous, they have a wealth of experience and they are happy to share. It is clear that cooperative models and sharing hubs are the main way of society building in the era of internet.  At the same time, I simply enjoy giving and sharing my own humble experience… because as my old mentor The Cat (Gustavo Gonzalez Couture) says… giving is a highest level of having, and it is a joy too!

IMG_0979With el Gato, my mentor!

Reflecting on your own process: Perhaps one of the main reasons for me to write in this blog is to have the opportunity to reflect in real time from my own process. This is one of the main tools of ethnographic research, and action research, as you are ¨doing¨but also you need to ¨research¨and understand what is happening. Sometimes, the speed of the doing is so fast that you do not have the space for having meaningful learning experiences, neither you can grasp and own what is happening.

For me, the blog is this space to think, reflect and make sense of this process of becoming an artist. I really like when others (artists, friends, entrepreneurs or any creative being) find it useful and share it or like it. It is there to be used! Indeed, the more I write about this the more I realise how much I can share with the world. I have created my own ¨systems¨, templates for planning, or ways of researching, using all the skills of being an academic, an entrepreneur, a researcher and a creative artist. So, please people if you need help or find something useful please let me know, it is very likely that I have the tool or the template for you to respond to your own needs.

So… what is the point of all of this. The point is that as artists, entrepreneurs, academics or creative human beings we need to be aware of what is going on and find the ways to understand, reflect and dialogue with these outside experiences. As artists our role is to reinterpret, subvert and transform the trends. It is not enough to follow what is there, but to take it to the next level, to make it fresh, to make it cool and ultimately desirable and profitable. It is important to dialogue, to learn from experts but also to share as much as we can, because as Lilla Rogers says, our creativity is not finite, and the more we share the more we get. We are vessels of creativity, that need to be renovated, recreated, shared… if we try to hoard our ideas, they will stagnate, but if we share we will be able to grow and to find new ways. In life all what is given is reciprocated…

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