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The Reflective Statement: Your Path to Artistic Enlightenment!

September 9, 2009

SandstoneAs an artist, it’s extremely important to be self aware. You need to be aware of your process, your decision making, your strengths and weaknesses, and your prejudices. Knowing these things can help you learn from your mistakes and play to your strengths. When you are aware of the things you’re doing intuitively, you are more able to use create strategies for yourself to overcome challenges in your work. You’re also able to circumvent the things you do that might be holding you back artistically. One way to become more aware is by writing a reflective statement.

What is a Reflective Statement?

A reflective statement is a written record of your artistic process for an individual piece. It describes step by step what you did and, more importantly, why. It can also talk about some of the challenges you faced and how you overcame them. It can even touch on things you want to address in your next piece.

Why Write a Reflective Statement?

Writing a reflective statement forces you to be aware of your decision making process while you are creating. This includes the things you do conscious, as well as the things you do intuitively. It can become a record of your thoughts while you’re working and is something to refer to later to remind yourself of things you want to explore further. A reflective statement is a good follow-up or conclusion to an artwork. Rather than setting it aside as done, you have a chance to reflect on what you have learned.

I was first introduced to reflective statements in a painting class. We were required to hand one in along with every painting we completed. Knowing that I would be writing about my process made me pay much more attention to it. I found myself writing my statement in my head as I worked, which made me very conscious of the things I was doing.

I found it so helpful that I continue to write reflective statements today, even though no one is expecting me to hand one in. Here is an excerpt from a reflective statement I wrote for the piece featured on this post:

Because the last orange painting I did ended up being a very red-y painting, I was very conscious of adding enough yellow to make a proper orange. I wasn’t happy with the colour of that painting because when I added white for highlights, the whole piece took on a bit of a peachy salmon tinge. In this piece, I made sure I added extra yellow to the highlights. However, I must have gone too far in that direction because I’m no longer sure that I would classify the painting as orange. It is now more of a sandstone yellow, which I don’t mind.

How to Write a Reflective Statement

Think of the reflective statement as an exercise in journaling about your creative process. Don’t write for anyone but yourself, and don’t worry about spelling or punctuation or grammar. I find that free-writing helps get the ideas flowing. If you’re stuck, here are some questions to ask yourself to get you started:

  • What did you start with?
  • What did you do next?
  • Why did you choose that (brush/colour/pencil)?
  • Why didn’t you choose a different (brush/colour/pencil)?
  • What problems did you encounter?
  • How did you solve them?
  • Were their issues you couldn’t solve?
  • What is working well and why?
  • What isn’t working well and why?
  • What did you learn in this piece that you can apply in the next?

I encourage everyone to try this with at least one piece! You’ll become more aware of your decision making process and you’ll have a written record of your thoughts. It’s a great exercise to help you get in tune with your intuitive, creative side

If you do give it a try, and you feel comfortable enough, share it by commenting here with a link to your blog!


From → Art General

  1. I very much like this idea of writing a reflective statement for each painting. While I am not sure I could keep up a structure for each painting (I work on many of them at the same time), I can see how it could be very helpful to reflect on the process. I am not sure I could honestly answer all of these questions for a single painting, because the decisions I make are truly often unconscious. I also prefer to keep it that way since it is working well. I do like this idea of writing in retrospect, however.

    As always you have a great deal to share with us here. Thank you!

    • Hi Kim! You might find it better to do a reflection of a body of work then, instead of each individual piece. I tend to work on more than one painting at a time, as long as the space allows it. My ideas can bounce around better that way!

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