Reflections on art and leadership

I use my art to reflect an artist and a senior manager in the financial services industry. I notice that the deeper I understand myself the more I succeed to impact others; in both art and work.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Plan 2013 Step 1 - Evaluating 2012

When looking at my own objectives it is funny to observe that I wrote them down in a small booklet, but did not spend lots of time writing updates. Guess it tells me to not over-engineer this evaluation, as it does not give lots of energy.
Still, good maybe to structure my evaluation in the way it would b done in a business and leadership context.
Key elements there are:
- Clear guiding image of the target (direction) - I would call it Beatrice (the guiding image that helped  Dante overcome his challenges in La Divina Comedia)
- Defining scope
- Exploring the way to the target

I. High level view of 2012 plans

1. Beatrice
The key elements of focus for myself had been:
- developing my insight into myself
- improve understanding of art
- starting to understand the way the art world works, and define how I would like to deal with marketing

2. Scope
I had focused mainly on learning, experimenting and describing my journey.
Actual marketing and expositions cam on a second priority, as i feel I still have a lot to develop as an artist.
And as I am not a full time artist I need to focus.

3. Exploring
Elements I had planned:
- continuous feeding of my conscious and subconscious with art, drawing, etc
- writing on my blogs to capture experiences, ideas and insights
- develop a consistent web-presentation: forcing myself to structure my own thoughts and ensure my ideas and artworks are easily accessible.
- explore selling through internet

II. Key observations
- website has been restructured, and the many blogs have been set up. I have not been able to keep them updated as planned - idea was a weekly article.
- website has played a key role in being found by New York galleries. Mainly after the article about my parchment objects on my blog I received the actual invitations from 2 New York galleries.
It all started with the art works I made as a commission for collectors Mr and Mrs Maas
I made 2 parchment objects called 1. Scapegoat and 2. Sacrifice
- the blog has helped me to be more concrete and document my ideas and concepts.
- The  Art Burshy cartoon published at has proved to be very close to myself, and helps me to express some less conventional views in form of humor. It also proved to be relatively easy to maintain (except a period of some 10 weeks).
- web visitors have raised to a level of around 2000 monthly visitors for the 3 websites by end of December, in combination with the many articles about my New York exhibition.
- key drivers of page visitors:
   > weekly content published
   > distributing articles through facebook, twitter. And some that have a business-focus to LinkedIn
- when being approached by Agora Gallery I decided to still go for an exhibition, although it had not been the focus.
- I started an interview with Frederik Beerbaum, and this brought quite some insight already. Want to to follow this up in 2013, probably during summer holidays.
- I have tried to discuss purpose of art with several artists. Many of them couldn't care less. I discovered that many of the questions I have raised are not 'popular' and only a handful artists were actually interested, and then were able to help me develop my views.
- I did the Barcelona exhibit and visited the Amsterdam equivalent. Conclusions of these exhibits:
  >> these events draw a lot of random visitors, not many interested in art (nor in buying)
  >> if you just have paintings you are lost in the chaos and massive amount of other artists
  >> quality of art, in sense of skill|concept richness|emotional charge is generally very limited
  So for me, if I will participate again I will make something that stands out more, is maybe more bizar/screaming/shocking
- I have concluded that by now I have lots of art works, several have been sold, but quite some remaining. I feel that initially I had a focus on 'creating', producing almost from a desire to be present. Now I see that actually the quantity has been useful to train and develop my skills. I feel that in coming time I want to focus more on exceptional art.
Basically this imples a move from 'quantity' to 'quality'.

III Shifts in thinking
The things that seem to differ now when looking back, and might change the focus of working:
1. From quantity to quality
Spending more time to research on subjects, study ancient techniques, take time for prototyping, rethink concepts or combine them to deepen the impact they have.
2. Keep focusing on content of writing
Although last year websites helped to market my art, I still feel primarily I should use the blog to explore and express ideas. Not to watch too often at the number of page visits.
3. Keep developing Art Burhsy cartoon
The Art Burshy cartoon is a nice way to spontaneously express controversial ideas, and stimulate myself and others to think. Also I would like to explore this year if there is a way to achieve publishing it in paper, magazine or so.
4. Take time to explore of the purpose of art (in general and for myself).
Finding more backgrounds and historic views of art and philosophy, and how this impacts myself as an artists.
Work on the interviews with Frederik Beerbaum and identify some key topics for exploration.
See if I can take part in a contest/concours that forces me to deepen my concepts, yet still achieving aesthetically appealing art works.

The parchment art works Scapegoat and Sacrifice are an example of target concepts
where I did more research and
where I feel I achieved a combination of a very rich concept and an aesthetically appealing object.

So far evaluation of 2012, ready for the next step to define my plans for 2013.
Pushing myself to write that for next week, as we are mid February already...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How does an artist set objectives for 2013

Standing with one foot in the art world and with the other foot in business creates an interesting enrichment from each side to the other: art helps me to reflect, take distance and adjust in the business world. Business allows me to be efficient and effective in my art efforts.

One of the elements I try to do since 2 years now is make my objectives for the year a bit more explicit. I have the feeling it helped me:
- get a better focus on what I want to achieve
- ensure I spend enough time on art creation as well as other aspects such as marketing and exhibitions
- be clear on what I will NOT do and obtain material result while being limited in time
- push myself beyond where I am today; and has pushed me out of my standard patterns and initial (somewhat) more cliche painting subjects

Why have objectives and direction
Looking at some research I noted the following about artist objectives:
- many art marketing books state that an artist should set objectives and also define a marketing plan
- philosophical and psychological books identify the 'lack of objectives' as one of the key reasons for artists to stop making art
- in fact, it shows that
   a) objectives should not be too concrete and reachable; it is known that artists freeze once objectives have been met and there is no new stronger objective on the horizon
   b) objectives should not be too far away as they might become demotivating when the artist discovers how far he is away from reaching them after a few months
- although the primary focus of an artist normally is a deeply internal motivation, the artist is also an entrepreneur and needs to keep developing his strategies and approaches; standing still is like losing time
- formally writing down your objectives makes it possible to evaluate and learn about which elements you can influence, which items are more difficult, and what are key areas to improve.

Counterarguments sometimes heard from other artists (and in business too by the way):
- you can not really plan and predict everything
- you just have to be lucky to be discovered
- art is not about finance, it should remain pure and an organic approach can be as good as a planned one.

In fact, in the basis all these elements are true....
But in my case I would say:
- the fact that I can not predict the road ahead does not mean I should not at all where I want to go and which road I plan to take
- we can hope for luck to cross our path, and try to help it a bit
- 'over-engineered planning' indeed creates too much structure, provides a fake sense of control and can destroy inspiration and energy; so let's define our goal, see what we do and don't want to include in our journey preparation. And then travel the road organically along these lines, making it an iterative learning experience.

Steps when setting objectives

I am taking 2 weeks to develop my objectives for this year. To force myself to be realistic and explicit I will share the key elements on my blog. This will also help to get later feedback from other artists, galleries and people I consider my mentors.
To get to my target objectives I plan to go through the following steps:

1. Evaluation of 2012
In this evaluation I would like to include:
- what were my objectives of 2012 and to which extent did I reach them
- what were the key activities I did and how did that go
- where did I not meet my expectations, and how can I get clarity on the reasons for that
- where did it go surprisingly well, and can I use more of that next year
- where did others help me get new insights, have better results.
- which elements gave me  energy and which have cost me energy
- which elements had I overlooked; also for aspects as cost, issues, visitors, suppliers, etc.
- is my view of myself as an artist, my strategic direction and vision still intact. Are there reasons that challenge my ideas or could enrich my view.

2.Refine my personal dream, view and approach
As an artist I have a dream, an idea of what I would like to achieve with my art, in a sense this dream is the 'muse' that drives me and makes me get up every morning full of energy thinking of art and life (well, almost every morning). It is good to make this dream concrete and make it subject to a bit of a sanity check.
Changing my objectives marginally while forgetting to face the brutal truth about my dream would imply spending lots on hours on a journey that is not for me to travel....
In practice this means that I will ask myself the following based on the evaluation of step 1:
- how can I enrich my views; which elements to add
- are there things I should consider for thorough review
- can I involve other people to get more clarity on how to approach certain items
- can I still justify my self-image about my talents, pitfalls, challenges and life approach, or are there multiple signals that suggest I should re-assess some of the points

3. 2013 Objectives
Which elements would I like to reach.
Where a key element is still how to remain energised, not make the objectives more important than the joy experienced and shared with others.
Already when writing this article I feel that the idea of having to finish a structured article makes my energy flow away.

4. Approach and planning
It is good to make some things practical; ensure there is a drive to push myself forward.
And translating the objectives in some concrete steps, but leaving the space to follow new things, experiment with new techniques, enrich my views by sharing with others etc.

5. Sanity check
After all has been written good to do a quick sanity check; is it all realistic, how will it work, what are my personal strengths that are required and my weaknesses that will stand in the way.

6. Go for it
Still important just to go out there, experiment, be heavily disappointed, ensure to live a full life, reflect and make all that part of my art, and make art part of that life.

Well, enough talked so far about my intentions and ways I would like to create a small plan. Especially having been offered several places to exhibit, need to work on some art works, be passionate and use the structure to help broaden my horizon and deepen my engagement with life.