Artist Role Models

Artist Role Models

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agnes_martin_portraitOne of the most interesting aspects of Week 1 of The Artist’s Way, is questioning who we want to become and what inner beliefs may be stopping us. There are several useful exercises to do in the first week, like listing your creative monsters in a ‘Hall of Fame’ and imagining 5 other lives you could lead.

But, if it’s becoming a successful artist that is what you really want, then one of the most powerful exercises to do is to work out what you actually believe to be true about successful artists. How negative or positive is your view?

If, for instance, you believe that most successful artists are arrogant, self-important, attention-seeking, drug-taking, egotistical and ultimately lonely examples of human beings, and you don’t aspire to become like that yourself, then it stands to reason, and, more importantly, to emotion, that you are highly likely to sabotage any attempts to become a successful artist like that yourself.

So, explore and challenge your own beliefs about what successful artists are like. Then, consciously find some examples of successful artists who fit a more preferable mould for who you are aiming to become.

I found one such artist while studying for my BA – Agnes Martin. Agnes became a personal heroine, especially in the studio. Lots of words I could use to describe her as a person embodied qualities that I admire; she was amazing, strong, calm, a subtle rebel, different, unique, a woman who followed her own path and didn’t cater to the whims of a fickle art market (New York). She meditated, studied Zen, and her work was a spiritual practice, though very earthy and grounded at the same time.

I wrote my thesis on her, which grew into a bound book which the University library purchased, I travelled all over the US in search of her paintings and curators who’d been involved with her shows, and I pursued a student exchange to a university in New Mexico, relatively near to where she lived, just so I could get to meet her and ask her some questions for my thesis research. Seeing her work literally changed the course of my life.


She became, in my own artists family tree, like a grandmother – someone I could look up to for guidance. If ever I needed ‘proof’ that people can have success in the art world on their own terms and in their own time, she was it. The downside was, she lived alone, almost a recluse at some points, and advised me herself “I think it’s better to have a family…” So, in some ways, her example has helped me and in others it may have held me back from pursuing ‘success’ as a professional artist.

No two people’s journeys will ever be the same, especially artists’ journeys. I need to find a few more members of my artists family tree now – some sisters and cousins who are finding their way and holding their own. So, I’m asking myself these questions;

  • Who do you truly admire?
  • Which artists, as people, embody those core values you hold most dear?
  • And, more importantly, what sort of role model are you becoming yourself?

Please share you own experiences with these questions and your personal Artist Role Models below…

Artist Role Models was last modified: October 6th, 2012 by Mi

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