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 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.

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