The Importance of Exploring What it Means to be an Artist

After the formality of a keynote or a live show, I love the freedom to just go and disappear, and relax, and… create.

Sometimes, you just need to explore the core of who you are as an artist, and that’s exactly what I got to do when I visited Vancouver recently.

I teamed up with one of “Van City’s” own local, talented, dope graffiti artists named Steve Hornung (you can find Steve’s work here) and went to a super cool area where they allow people to freely tag called Leeside Park.

The whole space was like a canvas or sketchpad for young street artists to come and get control of the can (and as we know, becoming more skillful as a graffiti artist is all about can control).

It was absolute freedom. Nothing there gets judged or critiqued. It just is.

Filled with elaborate pieces, both commissioned and non, we got the full ability to do anything we wanted there, so we just went in hoping to put up some fun stuff and interact with the art.

Graffiti Park was like a safe mini incubation lab for test driving new ideas.

Painting in this kind of environment was like writing a rough draft for a paper, or creating a blueprint or architecture. A framework for a new idea.

We tried different techniques, we screwed up, we were uncomfortable and laughed at our errors. But growth and comfort cannot co-exist. As an artist, I’m good with whatever goes up because that’s just part of the art. If I’m afraid of making crappy art, I’ll never come up with anything new.

I am a sponge in that type of environment.

I keep a beginner’s mind in the presence of mystery, new cultures and new techniques. I’m there to observe without judgement and create with reckless abandon.

And that’s the secret. We are all born artists, but keeping that ability to be creative even when we grow up requires a disciplined commitment to exploration and practice.

Just like practicing piano or soccer, it’s just what you do.

Even after a long day of speaking, book signing, and flying cross-country, you have to still be disciplined enough to get out there and play with the local artists in the community, otherwise you’ll never grow.

It’s about expanding your artistic awareness, and that’s exactly what we did in Graffiti Park with Steve.

To experience our day, check out the latest episode of Behind The Wahl: