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The Art of Reflecting Upon Your Creative Practice

artist creative block brushes

In art schools you are taught how to develop your creative practice through many different methods. Once you leave the comforts of this environment and find yourself out in the world without that structure it can be hard to maintain a productive and well-paced professional practice. Likewise, if you are self-taught you may not know about some of the methods of evaluation and development that are drilled into you as a student.

Methods of Evaluation

These are some of the methods I recommend to artists who wish to put their creative practice through some rigor and gain more insight from both their peers, industry professionals and the general public:


●      Critiques - Also known in the abbreviated form as crits. This is when you organize a group of artists together and offer group feedback for each artist's presented work.

●      WIP events - A Work In Progress (WIP) event can either be held in your studio or in a separate space. This is an opportunity to try out work that you are not ready to exhibit but it’s at a stage that you want some feedback. This is usually done in a closed environment and it’s a good time to host a critique with a group of your peers.

●      Open studios - This is similar to a WIP event and is a common occurrence in larger studio complexes that organize in-house networking opportunities. You invite people to your studio to see your work in the development stage.

●      Trusted feedback - If you have a good relationship with a curator or gallerist, their feedback can be very valuable. It’s not uncommon for artists to invite their confidants to have a studio visit and chat about current work and projects.

●      General feedback - Many galleries put out visitors’ books during exhibitions and events to gain feedback from visitors and to evaluate how the audience engaged with it. This is often for funding and marketing purposes for the venue or organization but it can also be interesting for artists to request this information after a show. Make sure that this resource will be put in place throughout any exhibition that you are involved with.

How to Not Lose Your Voice

Receiving a whirlwind of opinions can be very positive if you are able to pick out the inspiring snippets and discard the rest. It can also be overwhelming. Most artists at some point will find themselves experiencing the latter – full of ideas and feedback with no idea which lead to follow or drowning in too many thoughts and equally unable to move forward. It is very easy to lose your own voice in these moments, to become full of doubt and blinded by confusion. This can have a crippling effect on your creative practice and self-esteem.


Remember that the point of getting feedback is to help you move forward in a productive way. If you feel this way you need to revise your method of receiving feedback, maybe crits are not for you, or the person you have chosen to have 1:1 feedback sessions with is not bringing out the best in you. If this is not the case you could be suffering from a creative block

Procrastination and Creative Blocks

 We can all find ourselves procrastinating. Often this takes the form of becoming engrossed in a menial task that can have a similar effect to meditation or doing exercise – by distracting yourself from the issue you are supposed to be focusing on (finishing a painting, submitting a job application etc) you relieve mental strain and, in this space, incredible ideas have the chance to slip in and you can have a eureka moment. However, if you find yourself procrastinating, day after day, when you have a blank canvas in front of you and a show deadline looming, this is not so productive and probably has the opposite effect. There are a few ways that can help to snap you out of it and break the cycle.


●      Sketching - By taking a moment to work more freely and putting pen to paper can get your creative juices flowing again. The idea is to give yourself a task to force action without any pressure. For example, I might choose to spend an hour doing a still life sketch. This is similar to the ‘show up strategy’ as mentioned in the TED talk above. 

●      Revisit previous artwork - Looking back at previous work and assessing what did and didn’t work can inform the current or future project.

●      Go to a big gallery - Seeing a wide variety of art in a big collection such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art or MoMA exposes you to works that you wouldn't usually go to see in a specific show. Sometimes this can help you find answers: by seeing a new technique of hanging, a different method of display, a new medium or a variety of thematic perspectives. 


●      Get a new perspective - Put yourself in someone else's shoes and think about how they would face the same issue. You may use a fictional character or someone you admire. Imagine looking at the problem through their eyes, how do you imagine they would tackle this? I find that by removing the responsibility some of the pressure is alleviated and a pathway forward can emerge.

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