Friday, October 28, 2011

Making Good Artists

My colleague, Liz, and I recently delivered a presentation about research in the visual arts as part of a statewide symposium on undergraduate research. As we prepared our remarks, we worked together to build a list of the traits that undergraduate students need in order to excel as artists. Ultimately, we decided that all of us artists should aspire to the following:

You must come to the work with a sense of rigor and commitment—taking it seriously and doing the work of it by showing up, and then showing up again tomorrow.

In addition to working hard, you must work well, always being sincere in the work, while working on your own or with others.

You must think flexibly enough to internalize criticism and outside ideas, to see the blind spots in your own work, and to challenge yourselves out of your comfort zones.

You need a good blend of confidence, daring, and even arrogance that will make you set ambitious goals. However, at the same time, you need the willingness and the humility to fail really, really well—and often.

You must have the focus to stay on course in the work, but also the ability to be blown off course in purposeful ways. You must have an awareness and appreciation of accidental discoveries and chance.

You must appreciate the fact that this is really serious business—it’s not frivolous. You must be sustained by the intrinsic rewards of doing good work. Your internal motivation and tenacity need to keep the work burning independently of any assignment, professor, or degree program. You must realize that the work is worth you investing your best self. Good work is indispensible and important for everyone everywhere.

Finally, you must be able to put all of this heaviness aside and just make things.

And click HERE to learn more about Megan Boehm, whose workspace is pictured at the top of this post.