Essentialism applied to artists
Essentialism, according to Greg McKeown (https://gregmckeown.com/book/), is paring down what we want to do down to the essentials and necessary. As artists, we tend to do the opposite, I find. The more painting we create, the better; the more committees we are on, the better or the more busy we are the better.
”Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution toward my goal?” This is the question you ask yourself, McKeown says. If the answer is no, you don’t do it. If you hesitate and think about it, the answer is no and you don’t do it.
Let’s look at some ‘artistic’ examples.
An artist friend asks you to join him or her in a collaboration that will result in a show in a year’s time. This happens a lot in the art world. The theme is one that you have never worked on but the theme is intriguing and captures your interest.
Since you have never worked on such a topic, you look at what it might mean to you as you will have to neglect your current topic. Neglect is perhaps the wrong word. You will have less time to spend on your current practice. What do you do?
According to the Essentialist principles, the answer is no if it takes you away from your current work. You know this but the theme intrigues you. The theme would deepen your knowledge of x topic. It possible that it could add to your practice. The artist you are going to work with is also interesting. He or she works in a totally different way from you. Will that be a benefit or a problem?
There is a solution to this problem in the book by McKeown. You can define some perimeters until you decide. You can set a shorter trial period. You can say that you will try a trial period of two months, for example. You will work on it one day a week and you will meet with the artist partner once every two weeks.
At the end of those two months, you both decide if you want to continue. That is an essentialist compromise. Set up boundaries and guidelines to the project. This is good advice in any situation.
Example of possible problem:
Another art example is that a few artists get together to create a group where you will help each other learn about social media. You have a meeting, decide what you want to learn and delegate what we will learn to each other. The second meeting comes around. One of the members has not done their homework but you still share the information. The third meeting comes around. The same participant still has not done their homework. A second participant is missing because of a family matter. You still share.
The Essentialist would say; ‘Dump the group’. However, you see these people nearly every week in other activities. You feel like it would be politically incorrect to flat out dump the group. What do you do? McKeown would say that you find a nice way to dump the group. This is hard!
McKeown agrees but hard choices need to made in order for you not to waste your time on non-essentials. This group is not adding to your growth as an artist so it needs to be eliminated.
An Essentialist would be bold and say that this is disrupting them. This is hard! So you compromise, you put a note on your door saying you are busy and will come out when you are done. This artist still comes in. What now? The Essentialist would do the hard thing and tell the artist to stop coming in uninvited. Can you do this?
These are examples of what could happen and how you would have to decide what to do as an Essentialist. This book is worth reading for any artist. I think we could learn a lot.
I hope this helps you.
Doris’ website: www.dorischarest.ca
I have creativity courses and art courses online at: https://www.udemy.com/user/dorischarest/
For more information on mixed media by Doris Charest:
All photography and artwork by Doris Charest
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Till next time …