Visiting the IX Arts Conference
I don’t normally like to post about personal thoughts, ideas or feelings because I don’t want it to detract from the most important goal (which is to make art!), but this particular post is definitely going to break some of my normal blogging rules.
We spent this past weekend in Reading, Pennsylvania at the Goggleworks center for the arts for the annual IX Arts conference. This was the first time we’ve appeared at the event. I actually only learned of it a few years ago from an amazing artist named Kristin Kest (whom we ran into at The Rooted Artist Collective gallery in York, PA). I made up my mind that, come hell or high water, we would be attending it this year. So, we opted to start with the weekend passes to get our feet wet and really explore what the conference is all about.
We were able to meet and interact with hundreds of artists and illustrators from both the paid Juried Exhibition and the free Showcase (which is open to the public at the Hilton Hotel on Friday and Saturday evenings). I even got this awesome photo with Boris Vallejo!
It was especially cool to sit in on some of the illustration lectures from people working in the industry. I came back with a real sense of inspiration and some very serious thoughts about what my own goals and direction should be. It encouraged me to take a step back and reevaluate what I’m currently doing, what I hope to be doing, and how I can take steps to improve artistically.
I think most of the work I do stays fairly consistent in terms of subject matter and my execution. But, I am able to be very real with myself about my downfalls as an artist, and I realize I have a long way to go and a lot to learn in order to take those ideas and expand on them. I have a long-standing list of points that I feel need improvement.
Specifically, I want to explore composition more, including better compositions, more initial exploration of composition, and also more complex compositions. I have a tendency to hone-in too much on small areas instead of working loosely and exploring the bigger picture. I think doing smaller color studies and explorations might also be extremely helpful to me. I also think that generating more of my own reference photographs for a project would be hugely beneficial to my process.
In addition to these goals, I’m planning on switching back to oils as my medium of choice. I previously worked in oils and doing so encouraged me to work in larger areas with a softer approach. I think working solely with acrylics sometimes limits my ability to execute things the way I imagined.
Lastly, and most importantly, I want to change the things I dedicate the most time too. I think in order for me to make these improvements and continue to learn, that I need the time and freedom to do so. Taking commissions and scheduling too many events is a good way to make what I’m doing matter, but I feel like I’m doing these things preemptively. Deep down, I know it’s time for me to take a hiatus in order to come up with new pieces that have real meaning to me. I want to put the time and effort into planning a collection of works that I feel really reflects what I’m learning, who I am, the feelings I have and what I WANT to be producing at this point in my life. I have lots of ideas floating around, but I haven’t really put the time and energy into exploring and expanding on them the way I want to.
In addition to all of these thoughts, I’m still struggling with the desire to be more involved in the arts, and the fear of not being good enough or knowledgable enough to do so. For anyone who doesn’t already know this, art is still a hobby for me. By day, I’m actually a web developer/designer. I write code and work on various graphics including print and digital design. I currently only dedicate weekends to painting, and evenings to sketching, learning or concepting.
I was really inspired by a speech given by Dave Dorman this weekend for this very reason. Dave is self-taught and he really came up with his own unique process for illustrating. I was really shocked at how similar it was to my own in terms of how he transfers art, plans it, etc. The major difference of course, is that he’s FAR more skilled and accomplished than myself. Listening to his speech and seeing his process made me think, “maybe I don’t need to be embarrassed by the fact that I’m mostly self-taught, and maybe I can give myself permission to keep pursuing this and not feel so intimidated by not having an actual degree in the arts …”
I believe my next step is to plan a collection, explore and research in my spare time and really hunker-down in my own head and space for a while. I think this is the step I need to take in order to grow, improve and feel inspired about the work I’m creating. I’m really glad we took a weekend at IX Arts, as this experience has forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to have a fresh perspective on what I am doing.