Treat your career like a canvas, waiting to be painted.
Over the years, you’ve acquired a paint brush, pots of paints and now you’ve been given a blank canvas and told to create something for yourself. You want your canvas to be high in value so it has to look good and makes sense to anyone observing it. You have the tools, but don’t know how to use them yet.
At the start, you may feel that whatever you choose to paint is what you must stick to and it should be well thought out with particular paint colours, style of brush stroke, because you’ve heard that’s how other artists create their masterpieces.
You have two options on how to approach your canvas: Paint by numbers, or Jackson Pollock
A paint by numbers canvas:
You know what the outcome will be, you know exactly how to get there, you follow the numbers to get where you want to be. You’re told what colours to use and when and you could mindlessly paint your canvas without putting much thought. The outcome: well, it looks how you expected it to, but do you feel satisfied? Especially when you spent most of the timing painting feeling bored and you know you can’t actually see ‘you’ in it, and that there are thousands of other pictures that look exactly likes yours. How can you ever stand out? Did the paint by numbers canvas give you the opportunity to show your unique talent?
The Jackson Pollock Canvas:
You’re given your paints, but there are no guidelines as to what to do with them, what to create or how to create it. So, you experiment. Maybe you don’t use all the paints, you may actually mix some together. The way that you apply your paints with your paintbrush changes as you go along. In fact, you realise that the paintbrush is no longer your favourite style and choose a tool that no other artist has previously used. You find yourself creating layers and layers of art. Some parts of the canvas you like, some you don’t, so you focus on the areas of the canvas that are creating more meaning to you. The outcome is that whilst it may not be a conventional piece of art, it makes sense to you. People can interpret it how they want, but you have created something that is unique and meaningful to you. Through the process of experimenting, you have grown and developed as an artist. You’ve discovered your unique art, just through a series of creative successful and unsuccessful experiments.
Jackson Pollock was renowned for being an artist that broke convention, that took the canvas off the easel and instead of relying on a single brush to paint his masterpiece, he used every bit of force within him to create, recreate and recreate until his art evolved into something that was recognisable to himself.
Your Career is your Canvas
You career is your canvas. As you develop during school years and beyond you gain different paint pots and brushes. They won’t always be the same shades as the people around you, but that doesn’t matter. Even if you don’t have the colour paints, or the paint brushes that you wanted, what you create depends on how you make out of the colours and tools that you do have.
Yes, there is a risk that the Career Canvas gets messy at times but the great thing about experimenting as an artist is that you have the bravery to create, recreate and recreate. When you take a paint by numbers approach, you’re less likely to take risks because that’s not what paint by numbers is about.
Your Career Canvas is, or at least should be, the sum of your passions, skills, life experiences, failures and coincidences. Those are your paint pots, and no artist will start a painting with the exact same pots as the artist next to them. Embrace what you do have and just experiment the hell out of it.
Don’t lose contact
Finally, I’ll leave you with this:
‘When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.’
— Jackson Pollock, My Painting, 1956