Since March this year, I’ve started to take ownership of my journey in mastery as an artist.
Initially I committed myself to drawing 2 fairy penguins and 1 oak tree five days a week, as a way to build up my foundational drawing skills as a self-trained artist.
At the same time, I also began reading “Mastery” by Robert Greene, and there was a chapter on the apprenticeship stage, which has to do with exploring one’s path and going through what’s necessary in order to further oneself on that path.
As I read some of the real-life examples of what this apprenticeship stage is like, I realised that becoming a master artist isn’t just about intentionally drawing regularly, but I also needed to develop myself in other areas that are just as important.
A huge part of living our dreams is also about showing up where we need to, which varies according to the field you’ve chosen to evolve yourself in.
And it’s not about showing up for the sake of showing up, but rather having clarity about why we have chosen to be there, and setting an intention for what we would like to gain from the process.
One of those things for me as an artist is learning how to interact with the art world, and to educate myself about art through studying other master artists’ works and attending exhibitions, and taking the time to observe and analyse the artworks beyond my immediate emotional reaction (“I like it” or “I dislike it”.)
While it’s valuable to study the works of master artists from various art movements, I’ve also started to see that it’s equally important to look at what’s current right now, what contemporary artists are creating conversations around, and what kinds of topics they are bringing up that are relevant to today’s day and age.
Thus, art exhibitions are valuable opportunities for me to learn from other artists who are slightly further down their artistic mastery paths than I am. Plus it doesn’t hurt to get to know local gallery owners and managers, art collectors, and other art industry professionals.
In 2015-2016, I used to attend many exhibition openings with the intention of getting to know the local gallerists and hopefully land an exhibition with them. However I was kinda going about it “backwards” — hoping to land an exhibition first before I created new works for it — and that stressed me out because I had nothing current to show them.
But now that I’m reading “Mastery”, and returning to studio work and developing my drawing skills, I’ve started to realise that showing up at art exhibitions isn’t so much to get on the gallery roster and art sales, but it’s an opportunity to learn from other artists, to meet other art lovers to exchange perspectives around the art, and whether they are industry professionals or not doesn’t really matter.
The main objective is really just to learn about art, and develop my understanding around it and the industry, and discover how I can grow as an artist, within or outside the current rules of the game.
Now when I go to art exhibitions, I’ve started to see that it’s just about being fully present, staying open, and going with the flow of things. If an opportunity for conversation with someone comes up, I take it. If it doesn’t come up, I don’t try and force it to happen.
Showing up is really about opening ourselves up to new possibilities, new ideas, and new perspectives, so we can further evolve ourselves .
And I never know where the act of showing up will take me.
In 2018, after showing up to exhibition openings over a few years, I ran into an artist I had met on other occasions. We started catching up, and after sharing with him that I’ve been uncertain of my work lately, he shared how attending an artist residency had helped to evolve his body of work.
Thus I went home and applied for a few artist residencies, and that’s how I ended up in Spain a few months later painting the first Dream Tree mural, which has now turned into a project to paint 100 Dream Tree murals around the world, of which there are currently a total of 8 in six countries.
Whatever your dream is, whatever you want to attain mastery in, it’s not just about doing what would directly develop your skillset, but also showing up at the different events, opportunities, gatherings related to that field, in order to learn more of what living your dream could really be like, especially if it’s something you wish to build your livelihood around.