It’s extremely important to be self-aware as an artist.
We should always be thinking about our processes, our decisions, our strengths and weaknesses, and our prejudices. Knowing these things will help you learn from your mistakes and use your strengths to their fullest advantage.
When you become aware of the things you’re doing intuitively, you will be able to create strategies for yourself to overcome challenges in your art practice. You will also able to overcome the things you do that might be holding you back artistically.
One great way to become more self-aware is by writing a reflective statement.
What is a reflective statement?
A reflective statement is a written record of your artistic process for any individual artwork you’ve created.
A good reflective statement describes step-by-step what you did, and more importantly, why you did it. It can touch on some of the challenges you faced and how you overcame them. It can even mention ideas you have for your next piece.
Why write a reflective statement?
Writing down your thoughts about your own creative process forces you to be aware of your decision making process while you are creating.
This includes the conscious decisions you make, as well as the things you do intuitively. It can become a record of your thoughts while you’re working and is something to refer to later to remind yourself about issues you want to explore further.
A reflective statement is also a good conclusion to an artwork. Rather than setting it aside as done, you get the chance to reflect on what you have learned.
How I’ve used reflective statements:
I was first introduced to reflective statements in a painting class where I was required to submit one along with every painting that I completed. I paid a lot more attention to my process knowing that I would be required to write about it.
Sometimes I found myself writing my statement in my head while I worked, which made me even more aware of the decisions I was making. I found it so helpful that I continue to write reflective statements for myself to this day.
To give you an idea of what a reflective statement might look like, here is an excerpt from one that I wrote for a recent painting:
“Because the last orange painting I did ended up being a very red-y painting, I was very conscious of adding enough yellow to make a proper orange. I wasn’t happy with the colour of that painting because when I added white for highlights, the whole piece took on a bit of a peachy salmon tinge.
In this piece, I made sure I added extra yellow to the highlights. However, I must have gone too far in that direction because I’m no longer sure that I would classify the painting as orange. It is now more of a sandstone yellow, which I don’t mind.”
How to write a reflective statement
Think of your reflective statement as a journaling exercise about your creative process. Write for yourself, and don’t worry about spelling or punctuation or grammar. Just start writing to get the ideas flowing. If you’re stuck, here are 10 questions you could ask yourself:
1. What did you start with?
2. What did you do next?
3. Why did you choose that (brush/colour/pencil)?
4. Why didn’t you choose a different (brush/colour/pencil)?
5. What problems did you encounter?
6. How did you solve them?
7. Were their issues you couldn’t solve?
8. What is working well and why?
9. What isn’t working well and why?
10. What did you learn in this piece that you can apply in the next?
I encourage you to try this excercise with at least one of your next pieces. You’ll find yourself becoming more aware of your decision-making process and you’ll have a written record of your thoughts to look back on and use in the future.
For more articles by Miranda, please visit her art blog.