Exhausted by the holidays and also relieved to be back in the studio, it's time to return to Ian Roberts' book Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision. Principle 10, Wagon Train and Scout, is an interesting discussion about how to move forward toward more innovative solutions for our art. Historically, cumbersome wagon trains traveled westward over difficult terrain in America by working in tandom with swiftly moving scouts on horseback who would locate the best travel route. Roberts employs this example as a metaphor for how we artists incrementally transform our work as we seek new pathways that lead us away from the conventional toward the innovative.
The underlying assumption in this chapter is that throughout our careers, we artists should seek to improve our work, to find authenticity, through innovation. I agree with this, although I realize that some do not. Roberts also suggests that as we encounter obstacles along our journey and successfully find ways to overcome them, confidence builds. Confidence is important because it emboldens us to take the necessary risks that lead to innovation.
Our path toward innovation is sometimes clear, but mostly obscured as we venture forth. Roberts likens this idea to a wagon train moving out of a forest and into a clearing where the view of a vast plain ahead makes the path obvious. And, after the plain is traversed, the wagon train enters another forest where the path is unclear. This is my experience as well. There are "moments" of clarity", but most of the time I'm bouncing off closely spaced trees trying to find my way out of the forest. This is why a fleet-footed scout becomes necessary. The scout finds the path from small clues that for us, amount to intuition (see earlier blog about intuition). I'll add that if our intuition is grounded in a solid foundation of knowledge and experience, we will probably select the correct path.
Roberts concludes this chapter with his thoughts about discovering individuality, or authenticity, by trusting our intuition (our scout). Conventional wisdom can block the path of our "scout." The author urges us to spend quiet time examining works of art in order to discover 1) what engages you and 2) technical solutions that you can apply to your own work. Knowing what you're passionate about and how to express it with technical mastery is a very important part of making your work authentic, according to Roberts.
Roberts concludes that the scout's job is two-fold: to lead us away from lumbering conventions down a new path toward innovation, and to lead us to research that helps us gain technical mastery in our work. This makes sense to me.