"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by"
When John Masefield (1878-1967) wrote those words, he knew what he was about. He is describing the behaviour of someone who has found their true vocation. He is describing a sailor, but he could just as well have been talking about artists. Being an artist can be lonely, too. And because it is such a solitary occupation, mostly, it's easy to get lost. So many ideas, so many media; how do you find a star to steer by?
I believe that we have to create our own star to steer by, by thinking about what it is we want to achieve as artists. Businesses have 'mission statements', that are intended to help them to focus on what's most important in a maelstrom of choices. I think artists need something similar. To help us to make decisions about what it is we want to do, we have to be clear about what it is we are passionate about, and what it is we want to say to the world when we make art.
As an artist, I want to challenge people, to make them think, to show them my inner worlds, and invite them to wonder about them, to find things in the art that relate to their lives, perhaps allowing them to look at things in a different light. I want them to look closely at things that they might not have noticed before, and find joy in that. Over the years, my art has reflected that desire, even though I haven't always articulated it in that way before. That is my star; everything I make has to fit within that framework, or it is not really what I want to do...no matter how tempting it might be.
What is your star, your mission statement? What do you want your art to do or to say? If you're not sure, try looking back on what you've made, and what you are proudest of. What similarities do these things have? Is it materials, meaning, style, metaphor...what? What are you trying to say? It may take some time to work that out, and you may need to talk to others about it, too. I find that I know what I believe, when I hear what I say. So talk to others who are supportive of you, and see what they think. Try to explain what it is that drives you, motivates you to make art. If you can define that star, it will guide you in choosing what to make in the maelstrom of choices that face you, too.