Artistic and personal growth part II


The Artist’s success lies in joining peer groups with a common artistic goal.

When I read Mervyn Peake’s fantasy works Titus Groan (1946), I was obsessed and almost shocked by his description of the Bright Carvers:

“whose only purpose is to carve elaborate objects out of wood and present them to the Earl..”,
“..three of which are chosen to be placed into the castle museum ‐ a place where hardly anyone ever goes apart from the curator, who sleeps through the days amid a thick layer of protective dust. All the rest of the carvings are burned.”

I was stunned back then some twenty odd years ago by the vanity; the efforts and the waist. Yet now I see that the Bright Carvers might have been quite content. They could carve elaborate objects as they desired, they have the prestige of being a Bright Carver, and they seem to have a support group and a creative environment from which they could tap
inspiration for personal and artistic growth. In 2015 the world of the artist is more sinister. Creative industry, ego driven art curators, needless to say the sham in the art market. All these keep me as an artist well away from my chosen vocation.

In part I of Artistic and personal growth, I have identified that my personal artistic growth can be greatly increased by making/joining a peer group with a common artistic goal. The common artist’s goal could be for example: the representation of technical and mechanical principles in the fine arts.
{personal note: Would this help me? Do other artists also feel they could gain from interacting with peers from their profession? And can I pin point its failure or success.}

A brief formulation

Using an adaptation from Hart, R. (1992) the ladder of participation, I want to see if it is possible to activate artists’ own participation from tokenism to full citizenship in
the art world and develop a peer group in the field of ‘the representation of technical and mechanical principles in the fine arts’ whereby there is a potential for
artistic growth.

 Hart's adapted ladder of participation


full citizenship

  1. We the artists initiate a project and invite curators to co-run it. [peer groups with a common artistic goal]
  2. We the artists organize and direct our own exhibitions and shows.
  3. The curator-initiates the exhibition and shares the decision with us the artists.
  4. I am informed and consulted by the curator about the exhibition or show.
  5. My artwork is sold as a product, I am not consulted, but receive my money.
  6. The curator shows my art work to decorate an event.
  7. My artwork is used for someone’s political, financial or social gain.


this pole was published in Dec 8, 2013

There are areas where [peer groups with a common artistic goal] are successful. Like the Bridges Organization (art and mathematics). They hold annual conferences, where practicing mathematicians, scientists and artists come together in mutual exchange and encouragement. What makes them successful participants?
Many questions will need to be addressed:
Is it possible in theory to set up a functioning artist peer group?
Why are visual artists especially reluctant with the idea of gaining full citizenship in their own field?
What are the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and are they found in an peer group?

In the part III, I will set out a 2 year plan to answer if an Artist’s success lies in joining peer groups with a common artistic goal.

Artistic and personal growth part I

Not all efforts succeed., writing

Paintings, drawings, animations, graphical prints and sculptures are the outcome of my artistic work. For 25 years an intrinsic creative energy powers me to look, mark and remark on my existence. Prodding in the darkness from different angles I try to determine the shape of my being. In South Africa, where I spent a large part of my youth, I attended a technical high school where we were taught the skills of technical drawing. From the first moment I saw the cross section of some unknown machine part drawn out on paper I was gob smacked by the intense clear facts that the drawing revealed. After high school I joined the mining engineering faculty of the University of the Witwatersrand and spend some time in the dark gold mines of Johannesburg. One year after enrolling at the university I quit my studies, left Africa and left part of my life incomplete.

Old people, they say, connect to their childhood, slowly moving their existence to the extremities of their life line. Now somewhere in the middle of my lifeline I seemed to have found reason to reconnect to machines and spaces devoid of sunlight. In my notebook I jotted down the following words:
[inclusion, inner silence, achievement, expansion, brain stimulant, belonging, desertion, fulfilment, learning and teaching].
I feel that these words connect me to my personal and artistic growth. On canvas I paint technical and mechanical objects in empty spaces and I feel that these paintings also connect me to those words. But an artist must also test and prod other areas to confirm the fabric of their existence. These other areas, as I will develop in the next paragraphs, are external motivators to accelerate artistic growth.

In my day, after leaving art school, one would approach the galleries with smart portfolios or for those living in the Netherlands apply for the subsidies. If those fragile self ‐ reference fields dried up, you became an artist in isolation. In my final year at de Vrije kunst academie, the Hague I was involved with Gaidaro, a group of artists that aimed to move the attention away from the entertainment aspect of art towards a more direct and raw form.
So far I have identified 3 external areas that can confirm the existence of the artist, namely: [the art school], [the art market/subsidies] and [peer groups with a common artistic goal].
Other areas are [projects], [artists in residence], [international call for participation] and [social media].

Last April I presented my art works at the Kölner liste art fair. My goal: sure enough was to sell. I wanted someone to exchange their money for my artistic efforts. For someone to go home and call their friends: “I’ve just bought this amazing painting from K_Van, you must come by the house for cocktails.”
During a slack moment of the day I got out my notepad and drew out each area that [confirms me as an artist]-> and connected them with the words that connect me to my ->[artistic growth].   This resulted in a great spaghetti of lines across the page. Then I regrouped the words using the Bartle test of Gamer Psychology according to the keywords Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killer.


my personal and artistic growth
confirm the existence of the artist
inner silence
brain stimulant
[the art school]
[the art market/subsidies]
[peer groups with a common artistic goal]
[artists in residence]
[international call for participation]
[social media]

[the art school]
[peer groups with a common artistic goal]

[artists in residence]
[international call for participation]
[social media]

Achiever and Killer
[the art market/subsidies]



After tallying up the result I came to the following:

  1.  peer groups with a common artistic goal
  2. continue with education.

Resulting in: my artistic growth can be greatly increased by making or joining a peer group with a common artistic goal.


more to follow