1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I am the grumpiest, hermit artist around. I prefer the solitude of my studio and total immersion in the creative process. So why in the hell would I constantly preach on the importance of helping and mentoring other artists?
Sometimes artists have blinders on. Because we work in a solitary environment we forget to take time to help others.
Many of us are over protective of our techniques. We don't want to share anything that might make us a buck or give us an edge over other artists.
We don't want to waste our time when we could be creating. Let others learn as they may.
And most important I think we feel that we have nothing to share with someone else. Why would anyone want to listen to what we say? Our confidence is shot.
I know I may be oversimplifying each artists situation, but can you honestly say that absolutely none of this applies to you?
Believe me when I say I see both sides of the situation. I'd be much happier pushing the rest of the world aside and just being left to create. But then what kind of a person would I be? I would merely be making money off my art without giving anything back. Perhaps this works for you. It does not work for me.
I have a partner who is a very talented artist and feels exactly the opposite to my own views. So I do see the other side of it and I understand where he and others are coming from. And more power to those who wish to stay hidden.
But for those of you who may wish to give something back of your talents and skills, here are some simple guidelines I use to do so. Keep in mind these guidelines apply mostly to relationships online and through social networks. There are three levels to mentoring:
- Informal Social Mentoring
- Formal Social Mentoring
- In Studio Mentoring
We often hit the "like" or "retweet" button to symbolize our admiration for another artists work, but how often do you stop for a moment and send that artist a message telling them how much you liked what they did?
Yes an argument can be made that there just isn't enough time in the day to do this with all the artists we might come across. But wouldn't it be cool if we each just did it once a day? How much more encouraging would that make someones day?
This is where mentoring begins, with encouragement. Its quite simple really.
Where it goes from there is strictly up to you. For me, its about taking a little longer to look at an artists work. Its remembering the steps I went through as a new artist and watching for the same mistakes and missteps that I made when starting out and gently discussing better ways to be a professional artist. Its about seriously critiquing a piece of art to honestly help the person, without being a total dick and saying "that sucks". Diplomacy and mentoring go hand in hand. Even the worst artists can someday be the best.
I think a lot of people are under the impression that when you say "support a fellow artist" that it means providing them with funds or buying their work. Wow that would be nice, then we wouldn't have to deal with anyone else except fellow artists. But we all know that is not reality. "Support" means being honest about an artists works, ideas and chances of success. But doing so with care to not destroy their dreams either.
So the Informal process of mentoring is not terribly hard. I guess that's why I encourage more artists to do so. Each of us deserves more than to be immortalized with a "like" button. We crave substance. We want to know why someone liked us.
So those are the basics and what I consider the most important of the three types of mentoring. I find that beginning an informal relationship with another artist, often leads to Formal Mentoring and in some rare occasions has brought the artist directly to the studio. But it has to begin somewhere. If we don't take the steps to establish that relationship, then what we know and what we have learned, dies with us. And that's a bloody shame. You owe your own skills more than that.
I say in closing that this article is not aimed at new artists starting out. I am speaking to seasoned artists who have learned the pros and cons of their business. It is you who have the ability to mold and shape the artists of the future.
Art should always outlive the Artist, but so should their life lessons and skills.