Reflection questions on artmaking
After a recent big performance and event, I found myself having a bit of a collapse-into-a-warm-puddle-of-despair moment... It passes though, as I'm learning (this time, I managed to climb out much quicker than I did from the same puddle last year so yay! Progress...). It was a strange experience post-show. Weeks of exhaustion, relief and torrents of doubts. I noticed myself walking around desperate for someone to ask me an interesting question that would help me reflect, come to terms with the difference between my vision and reality and craft a soul-nourishing story I could take into the future for whenever I next gather the courage to attempt any kind of creation in the world (never a guaranteed thing).
That conversation with another human never came and after a bit more grappling with existential angst, loneliness, raging against what is and despair, I realised that if I wanted space for reflection, I needed to make the time to do it within the confines of my own heart. This might seem obvious to some, but I tend to be more of an extroverted introvert who only knows herself in dialogue with something outside of herself.
In the past, I've used the simple reflection process of three questions: 1. What went well? 2. What could have been better? and 3. What would you do differently next time? This was a great starting point but I wanted to do deeper into the specifics of reflection for artists. I found two helpful resources below. They're all basically the same thing and there's a lot of repetition but I found that by using differently phrased questions and giving myself lots of time over several days to gently contemplate whatever question/s caught my eye, some unexpected insights and clarifications emerged.
The first was the idea of levels of reflection on learning. There's tons of different ways of conceptualising the levels but my favourite came from a school teachers resource kit, Teach Between the Lines:
What did I accomplish? Describe the project completed.
What is important about what I did? Why did I complete it?
What did I learn from this experience? About my values and standards? About other's values and standards? About working with others? Where else could I use this knowledge?
Are there patterns in my behaviour or in how I worked with others? What worked? What didn't work? What could I have done differently? What have I learned about myself as an artist?
How did I do? Did I meet my goals? How "successful" was I?
6. CREATE & EXTEND
What can I do now to extend my learning? How can I use this knowledge in future projects? What else do I want to create?
The second was a comprehensive list of questions for reflection for art students. The questions "encourage reflection on art making and artistic thought processes." I've modified them slightly below:
- What were your inspirations for creating this project?
- Which media, techniques, and work processes did you use? Why did you make those choices?
- What do you intend for audiences to see, experience, and think about when viewing your work?
- Which are the most successful aspects of the project?
- What are some of the most important skills you drew upon to create this project?
- What were some of the big decisions you faced in creating the project?
- Did you encounter any difficulties when creating your artwork? How did you work through them?
- Is there anything about this project you feel you could have done differently? What and why?
- Did your work involve research? What kinds of investigations and discoveries were involved?
- How do your works of art relate to each other in terms of visual and conceptual content?
- How do you describe your artistic style/perspective in this project?
- How did you define success in the creation of this project? Does that definition still apply or has it changed? Why?
- What are some of the most significant or rewarding things you've learned through making this project? About yourself? About others?
- What is one of the best compliments you've received about this project and why?
- What advice would you give to other artists contemplating engaging in projects like yours?
- What are your future artistic plans?