Why going to the gallery makes you a better artist

A small thing that makes a big difference

Sometimes we are keen to expand our skillset with new painting techniques, to develop our style as artists and deepen our understanding on different movements of art. However, we tend to forget one very important thing, which is fundamental to our development as artists. If you are guessing that the answer is “going to the gallery”, you are only half way there. What helps you become a better artist, is not the gallery itself but everything it represents and embraces.

This article is inspired by my visit and presentation of my painting “Tabula Rasa” in the gallery 44AD in Bath, UK. I had the chance to a meet and discuss with the other artists exhibiting their work with subject “Alter Ego“.

Iasonas Bakas presenting his work tabula rasa at the exhibition alter ego in 44AD Bath, UK
Iasonas Bakas presenting his painting “Tabula Rasa” in 44AD, Bath

Getting Inspiration

The most obvious benefit of going to a gallery, is getting inspiration. This probably doesn’t need too much explanation. Spending some time admiring works by established or emerging artists, gives you new ideas, makes you think about your own work and subconsciously makes you compare your art to the the art made by others. This is beneficial both in terms of inspiration but also in terms of incorporating new elements to your own work.

Incorporating new elements

Although this exhibition (Alter Ego), had a common theme for everyone, you would be amazed by the variety of different interpretations given. For beginner and experienced artists alike, experiencing this variation and pluralism is fundamental for developing their style. New media, new painting styles, installations and sculptures create an amalgamation of new elements that can either be incorporated in your style directly, or provoke thought, motivation for research and finally, through all this, help you distill information and add it to your artistic toolbox.

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Distincting profession from passion

Interaction with other artists is important for everyone working in this field; it is even more important though for those just entering the racecourse of art. I asked people for their thoughts on being a “good professional artist”. I was surprised to receive, by most of them, a rather discouraging reaction to using the term “professional”. They gave advice and recommendations, however the main feeling I got from our conversation was that when working in the arts field you are mainly after a passion rather than “just a profession”. I totally understand that and it made me feel slightly more relaxed about what I wanted to achieve.

Rethinking your approach

The discussions I had with artists in the gallery made me think and slightly re-arrange my goals as an emerging artist. So far I have been a bit “stiff” regarding the desired outcomes of my art. I started with an idea, I had a specific plan on how to achieve it and I employed my best skills to implement the plan. However, this is not always the point; sometimes the process of getting there is much more important than the result. Read the poem “Ithaka” by C.P. Cavafy; it will help you understand my point of view. The exploration and the processing of materials, the experimentation and the thought process of getting something right, sometimes is much more valuable than the final work of art.

Presentation of deviation street magazine at 44AD Bath, UK

Discovering a story and socialising

Going to the gallery, and specifically going to a private view where meeting the artists is easy, has its fun aspect as well. It gives a great opportunity of meeting local artists, discussing their source of inspiration, hear fun facts about the work they are presenting and be amazed by the thoughts that led to the creation of a specific artwork (sometimes completely different to what you would imagine as a viewer). Old friendships, professional experiences, redundant statue heads and long hours of hard work come together creating a unique atmosphere between like minded people. A fantastic feeling you should experience either as a new artist or just as a curious viewer.

Getting ideas for presenting your art

Finally, this comes from both the exhibition at 44AD and the opening of Chris and Steve Rocks show at Whitewall, Bath, which I attended a few days later. Visiting a gallery gives you ideas on how to present your art. You can see how other artists or professional curators set up an exhibition, what frames they choose, how the lighting works, even who they have invited to the show. Even if you are not ready for a solo exhibition, attending such an event will help you relax and feel more comfortable when the time comes for a solo or joint show of your own work.

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All images kindly offered by Katie O’Brien, 44AD

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