• Dean Melbourne

Artist Coaching - How can a coach support an artist?

If you are a serious sports person, at any level, getting a coach is a essential. In fact, getting a team of support to help you get the most out of your potential is essential for all top flight athletes. Fitness coaches, technical coaches, nutritionists, psychologists etc etc.

Performance coaching extends into most creative specialisms. But not the visual arts! It seems a bit - well -unacceptable.

An athlete or sports person has to deliver. At the right time, under pressure. They have to execute excellence and often go beyond what is perceived possible.

Artists do the same and SO much more. Even if you just take the practicalities of executing the work in the studio. You have to first of all visualise a process or set of techniques that will get you close to what you hope to achieve. You have to drown out the voices of the (apparently thousands) of talented people who do it completely differently to you.

You have to navigate the endless options of media, materials, technique, scale, format before you can even start. Depending on how you see yourself, you have to navigate the tightrope of authenticity, popularity, commercialism, humility and self-promotion. You may well be hitting a deadline and trying to “find form” just at the right time. Maybe it's your one big opportunity to show in a year or the first time new work is being shown. There is pressure.

It's fairly easy to tell if you are playing golf well, or boxing well. Your score is low or you aren't getting hit in the face. For visual artist the measures are intangible and spurious. Even when we leave the studio in the evening, feeling like we smashed it, only to come in the next day and realise … well you know how it goes.

We haven't even covered the concept/subject of the work. Or the financial pressure. Or the family obligations that break the flow. And you have to post something on instagram before the end of the day or you don't exist.

Are you working hard enough to get the right opportunities to show? Are you winning prizes, being collected, respected by your peers. Do you need a gallery? To sell more? Do you need to change your work?

At varying times, you will be in full flow, self-assured, lost in your momentum and those are golden times. It will all seem to be coming together.

But often there is at least one of the above making things tricky.

As a coach/mentor (I have to say both because I'm somewhere in between) I can do a number of things. I can give an outside perspective on the work. I can compare what I see to what you tell me you are trying to achieve both in the work and more holistically for your career or life.

A coach can look for patterns in your language that show up any unhelpful presuppositions about “how it is” or “how I am”.

We can look at patterns that re-occur in you process and frustrations that seem not to go away. A coach can spend time asking “better” questions to move your thinking on around an issue and give you a new perspective.

Not to mention we can encourage you, remind you of the bigger picture and hold you to account if it helps.

What I find I do most in fact is remind people that they are amazing and guide them to match their actions up to their ambitions.

We are expected to be not only artists, but agents, marketeers, academics, facilitators, freelancers, accountants and our own human resources department and board of Directors.

Why wouldn't we need support as much as an athlete?