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Disability Arts Online

Leading questions / 9 March 2009

image of a semi-figurative painting, mainly in shades of red and maroon

A female face watches a crouching figure - there are scratch like marks across the canvas. Through a rich deep red, orange and burnt sienna landscape - the figure,enshrined in gold leaf, free from the trauma of her demons prepares to leap.

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I was lucky recently to have had the opportunity to participate in the Sync 20 leadership programme.

I might not be a typical leader in the respect that I don't manage people but I acknowledge that through my artistic practice I can and do have to lead. But this did little to alleviate the trepidation I felt as I embarked on a series of coaching sessions and a workshop.

I was apprehensive because I recognised that before I would be able to take a leap, I would have to face my insecurities. Conscious that I am already successful as a practising artist this exercise and process wasn’t about unpicking an already working practice, but more about recognising the areas where sustained focus and consideration would enable me to expand my ambition.

For most artists their studio is their shelter, where creativity and artistic fulfilment reign supreme, but it is when this shelter is breached and the studio is no longer there to protect, insecurity creeps quickly in.

But as communicators, artists have to reach out to their audience and perhaps the most important part of the Sync program for me was when this notion was once again clearly identified, defined and clarified.

I have always been acutely aware of the personal need to share and exhibit my artwork; for me it is only when the artwork is in the public domain that it truly lives. Fortuitously for me, perhaps, a throwaway criticism I remember made to a fellow student at Art College by a tutor who questioned whether their artwork was a form of personal therapy, had the effect of reinforcing my own motivations; but nevertheless the “public domain” can at times still seem like a mine-filled battlefield. Each step requires enormous courage and determination.

The likes of constituency, organisation, behavioural and strategic are my new buzzwords. I have heard them now many times. But in the context of my art practice they have never previously impinged upon my creative consciousness.

I didn’t necessarily hear new things during the Sync programme, but being given the opportunity beyond the studio to focus and use this knowledge with purpose was without doubt empowering.

My professional journey continues; the goalposts have been extended; and I journey on with greater impetus. I have emerged from a shell and I am much more confident now that I can achieve my artistic ambitions.