A couple of weeks ago our little family went to meet our friend and artist, An Hoang, at her painting studio. I have been wanting a painting of hers for a couple of years and we finally decided to buy a small one. Additionally, Alexandra has been very interested in art for a while now, and I have been trying to introduce her to people who make art so she can see what it means to be an artist. I figured we’d go to the studio, chat a bit, get the painting, and go home. I had no idea that the experience of being in an artist’s space would resonate in me so deeply.
At my job right now, I am teaching our Arts in NYC course (you can check out my ePortfolio here). This year we added another element to our course–an artist-in-residence component. I have been planning and plotting this pilot program all year, and this term three artists have served small residencies in three sections of our Arts in NYC courses. The results have been better than I could have imagined: the students are engaged, the artists are astounding, and the results are creative. However, when asking our first artist what he might suggest for the program next year, his response was, “I would have loved to bring them to my dance studio.”
He told me this on Friday; I went to An’s studio on Sunday. The interconnectedness was uncanny. The studio–of course!
With this suggestion in mind, I must have asked An a million questions at her studio, and she graciously answered. She explained that a studio practice as an artist is how you promote your work–many galleries ask their artists whose work they have seen and liked and that is often how you’ll get a show = by word of mouth from the artist community. With this in mind, your studio practice is a living portfolio of your artwork. She then explained that 1. You need to have enough work available to show various sizes, colors, and the evolution of your vision, and then 2. You need to invite other artists to visit you in your studio.
Now that sounds terrifying to me, akin to inviting other people over and look at you naked and critique your gym workout. She said that yes, it is intimidating, but as a professional artist it is something you have to figure out: You must learn who to invite over and who not to invite over. She explained you invite other artists to your studio to give you feedback on a completed work, on a work in progress, or on a work when you are stuck. You also might invite another artist to help you sequence some works in a series or to help select pieces to show together. Overall, I was struck by the collaborative nature of a studio practice. When I think of an artist in a studio, I think of individual practice, a place of solitude for the purposes of creativity, but it is so much more than that.
And I realized how much this translates to college–the idea of a practice of a skill (be it writing, reading, math) as both and individual practice and collaborative effort. It HAS to be both, and both elements have to be functional, for there to be growth and promotion and success. Yes?
I have also been thinking about going to a dedicated space to work is a practice in itself; it is so essential. I have had a desk of my own for as long as I can remember, and I still crave my time alone at my desk. My daughter has her desk and so does my son, and they both go to their desks to write, draw, and create. This skill of having your own “studio” is essential to both the creative and productive life.
I walked out of An’s studio gently carrying the painting I had been dreaming of for years. It’s now on our living room wall and we all love it. But I took away so much more than just the painting. Thanks, An, for that glimpse into your life and all the ideas that surfaced for me because of it.