I had the honor (I mean, I paid her, but it was still AN HONOR) of having a private mentorship session with one of my favorite painters, Abbey Ryan. As I continue to explore the direction I am going as an artist and a designer, talking with Abbey was revealing. It is so incredibly helpful to have someone study you and your art and give their objective feedback. I don't know Abbey personally, therefore her opinion is taken without the suspicion she might be feeding my ego, or feeling bored of me, or have any personal stake in the conversation at all, really. I have been craving this. Someone's undivided attention without feeling selfish about taking their time.
The session itself was great. I am left with a lot to process about how I move forward. We talked about the things I requested that we discuss: the process and building a sustainable practice, and my artwork itself. Abbey had a lot of great insight in both areas. If you read a lot about how to cultivate your creativity--which I do--some of the tips can get redundant, but I really felt like I was getting new information from Abbey. I think this is because she understood me and what could work for ME, and because she is a professional painter, and so the advice was speaking directly at who I want to be (or am?). Before our Skype session, I was asked to fill out a very detailed self-assessment, and it was clear that she had spent a lot of time reading and understanding what I had written. She had pointed out things that I was unaware of, such as the language I was using when referring to my art (an "indulgence") and how that may not be the best way to build a sustainable practice. I also have a hard time getting myself into the studio (you know, the one that is 10 feet from my house) because I want to make sure that my WORK work, my REAL work, my DESIGN work, gets done. She suggested I think of the two as equals, but maybe my design work is the first of equals. This was a new way of thinking about it that had not occurred to me before.
We also talked about my work itself, and this was also highly valuable to me. Maybe it is my industrial design education, maybe it is my hardened exterior shell from 10 years of corporate work, I don't know, but luckily I am able to hear a critique about the technical aspects of my work without getting butt-hurt. I'm talking about color palette choices, brushwork, all that good stuff. It is so hard to be outside of a classroom and get that sort of personal feedback, and from someone whose technical capability is undeniable. Please tell me what I am doing wrong, and I will fix it. It didn't seem like much, but I have a lot to chew on. Simple changes can make a big impact on your work, so it will take some time for me to move through the suggestions that she made to see a difference and home in on what works best for me.
After the session, Abbey sent me a packet of notes from our discussion as well as SO many more notes on moving forward. I feel like I have a painting technique book written solely for ME. I have a lot to process. I am so grateful our paths crossed and that I was able to work with her.