Your Own Personal 'Back to the Future'
Back to the Future is a classic 80's movie. It's got everything you could want from the decade: technobabble, a totally implausible premise, a sweet car, and, of course, moon boots. But that's not all - it's also about the power to reshape the future by looking back at the past. What if you could do the same?
While some part of me wishes we could all have time-travelling DeLoreans, I'm not talking about the ability to travel to the 1950s (which was one of the more overrated decades if you ask me). There's also no need to travel to 2015, since we did that already the long way. I'm talking about your artistic past, and how your awareness of it will shape your artistic future.
Artists tend to live in the moment - I know I sure do, at least most of the time. A lot of what we do is expressive, and sometimes it's all too easy to fall into the trap of simply being a reactionary. This can be powerful, because a lot of the strongest emotions make for some of the best art, but the strongest emotions also tend to fade the fastest so it makes sense to react to them immediately to capture the fullest version of the moment.
But when you get a moment to breathe (if you ever do), it can be really helpful to take a step back from your current practice and look at everything that has led you up to this point in your life and your artistic career.
Looking back is sometimes the clearest way to look forwards, even if that doesn't seem to make sense at first. It can show you yourself in a new way - and on some level, every artist is a narcissist, so you know you want to look.
Your artistic career is a story, a complex narrative of emotion and passion. The tip of the brush (or the palette knife!) in the current stroke might seem the most important, but it only makes sense when you take in the picture as a whole. That's also how you know where the next stroke needs to go. Take the time to look at all the work you've done, in chronological order, and remember and reflect on what was happening in your life that made you decide those pieces were the ones you wanted to dedicate yourself to at the time.
If you ever remember an art teacher telling you about the importance of maintaining your portfolio, this is probably part of the reason they thought it was a good idea. It may have sounded like a waste of time then, but hopefully you'll begin to appreciate the wisdom of it now.