Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, takes the guise of Mentor, the elder who guided Odysseus's son, Telemachus
Image from the Internet
A friend mentioned recently that her work had been profoundly affected by a well-respected art professional who, looking at her paintings, said, “Make them larger.” Inspired to see where scale would take the work, she created a series of large paintings; they in turn led her into a series of small to mid-size sculptures and prints that have brought her increasing critical notice.
Hearing my friend’s story prompts me to note that our mentors come in all forms. Some are there for the long haul—a former teacher, a trusted dealer, perhaps an older or more professionally experienced artist who takes an interest in our work and dispenses encouragement and wisdom when we seek it or need it. Others appear more fleetingly in our lives, perhaps with only a comment.
It turns out that the person who “mentored” my friend with that fleeting remark has been a longtime friend and mentor to me. What we receive, and what we perceive can have a huge impact on our work, even if the contact is brief. Of course, we don’t accept advice blindly but sift through and keep or act on what is important to us, and it is up to us to evaluate the result of the advice.
My friend’s fleeting mentorship is a good lesson for those of us who are in a position to make a difference, for what we say—even if it is one comment—could utterly change another artist's life (and we might never know). Indeed, my friend is now in a position where her own words are now enormously influential on others.
My mentor has not focused on my art so much as on the art world, helping me understand how the various parts work and how they fit together. A mentorship is not static; you build on what you learn, connecting the dots to make informational structures of your own. In part, that's why I am able to bring Marketing Mondays to you.
Mentoring is an act of generosity. Repay your mentor with respect. Return the generosity of a mentor by paying it forward; you'll understand what that respect means when you receive it from someone you have mentored. Don't use what you have learned to try to usurp your mentor's positon; that's being selfish and insecure. If you've learned well, you will understand how to create the work you need to make and how to create a place for yourself so that it may be seen. When you are feeling secure enough to assume the role of mentor yourself, consider your words and advice carefully.
Please add to this conversation.. If so, how has mentoring helped you?
. Have you been mentored?
. Have you been mentored?
. Have you returned the generosity of a mentor by paying it forward?
. Have you had a bad experience as a mentor or protégé?