Find yourself a mentor

These post-covid lockdown days are hard for artists, myself included.  I have been blessed all of these years because of what my mentors taught me early on in my career.  I need to show some gratitude for their knowledge and their efforts on my behalf.

My Story

As a young artist, I got invited to have a space in a studio complex by one of my mentors. This invitation included the understanding that I would pay a monthly fee for the studio space and the experience.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with and learn from artists with training and experience.  This meant taking care of the artists who had invited me into their lives. I washed the floors of their studio, and I cleaned the common areas. It meant volunteering whenever they needed help, and yes, I continued to pay my monthly fee.  My mentors were very generous with me, so I did my utmost to show them the respect they deserved as a sign of gratitude. I was indebted to them and, in many cases, still feel that way even today.

Respect the master artists

Three and a half decades later, I still occasionally get called upon to assist some of my mentors, and I will continue to do it as a sign of respect and gratitude for their training and help.  One of them is 90 now, and it is a privilege and an honour to learn from her.  The few remaining mentors I have are still in their studios, working diligently.  However, not everyone who came into contact with these individuals had the same attitude towards them.  Many seemed to believe that the money they were paying them was enough and that the mentors worked for them.  They missed the point. You pay to be in the presence of a master, and you must work to remain there.

Appreciate what you are given

When you’re lucky enough to find a skilled mentor and teacher, you should do everything within your power to make sure that relationship can continue. Good mentors are rare. They are special. The pyramid doesn’t play to the student’s benefit in these situations.  You are not a client.  The master doesn’t work for you. As an art student, I quickly realized that my mentors could very easily replace me or if the relationship was not satisfactory to my mentor and that they would be gone from my life forever.  These individuals are generous and giving, but they have their work to do. I couldn’t afford to purchase their work in the early days, so I had to find other ways to help them out. When I could afford a small work of art, I bought one as a sign of respect and support.

So my advice for today is that if you want to learn and develop your skills, you will need to find yourself a mentor with formal training and experience.  If you have found a mentor, make sure you keep the one you have and show them a little appreciation.

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