This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Luann also writes a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”
The insights and ideas continue to flow at the gym, and this week is no exception. Today’s thoughts came from someone who will be leaving soon–the intern.
There are many professions aligned with the health industry that, after meeting the educational criteria, also require an internship–a period of in-the-field training, under the supervision of a licensed professional, to gain the insights and knowledge that can’t be learned any other way, except in the field.
There’s such a student now, in the last stages of their credentialing. They’ve been working alongside one of the physical therapists as long as I’ve been there. And in another week or so, they’ll move on.
I asked them what were the most important things they’ve learned in their internship. Their answer might surprise you.
“I think watching everyone here interacting with their clients has been eye-opening. Each client is different, personality-wise, and the therapists here always meet them where they’re at. Some people are more assertive, some are overwhelmed… You need to take that into consideration when you’re working with clients. I’ll have two people, back-to-back with the exact same issue–but the approach and the treatment won’t be the same, because this person needs to go slower, or needs more encouragement, and that one wants to be challenged. I know HOW to treat their issues, from my schooling. But this part of the healing–I had no idea! And it’s so powerful…”
A thoughtful and insightful reply, on so many levels.
And how does it connect to making and marketing our art?
I immediately thought of how artists can use this same principle. We learn to interact with customers by meeting them where THEY’RE at. (And by ‘customers’, I mean ANYONE who’s in a position to buy/support/market our art–buyers, gallery owners, journalists, etc.)
Over time, we may realize that some are assertive and confident, and we adopt a certain style of response with more energy. Others are more contemplative, quiet, not wanting a lot of interaction until they’ve processed what they’re looking at. They will read every sign in your display and look at every piece of work. They don’t want to be pressured, but they don’t want to be ignored, either. Others will stride in, look around, and exclaim, “Wow, this is GREAT! Tell me about it!” You need to immediately jump on board, or they will lose interest and walk away. Overwhelming an introvert or underwhelming an extrovert can seriously hamper our efforts to connect others with our art. Knowing how to match our interactions with the situation, in the moment, is a powerful tool.
Then I considered the notion of apprenticeships in the arts and crafts. It used to be the main method of education for artists and craftspeople. Now, not so much. Oh, there are still plenty of workshops and classes. But the idea of working long-term with a master, while not rare, is certainly not the norm these days. Even then, perhaps much of the focus is on technique–not the bigger but less-obvious insights of how to connect to our own artistic vision and purpose.
I think, though, that instinctively, we DO seek out those people who offer us something else besides technique and practical knowledge (which are valuable in their own right). Just the fact that FASO has articles like these, where we can all share insights about what makes us tick (with our art), and what rules are solid (“Do the work!”) and which aren’t (“It’s actually OK to just walk into a gallery and ask to show them your work!”) show how important this is for many of us, in all stages of our professional life.
In fact, for me, becoming an artist really opened my eyes to the idea of being a life-long student–a student of life. That’s what my writing (as much of my creative process as my artwork) is all about: Sharing what I’ve learned, with others who’d like to know.
Finally, I realized that the Student also has something to teach US. Through them, we get to look at what we’re doing with new, fresh eyes. The exhilaration, the wonder, the excitement of those first few years of making our art–remember? When everything was possible, and nothing stood in our way. This enormous body of knowledge and skill we’ve acquired over the years, something we perhaps have begun to take for granted–we get to see it from their perspective, as a massive achievement, something we can be proud of.
Beginnings, middles, and endings. All have something to teach us, to expand our understanding and broaden our horizons–if we just take the time to listen.