Many artists often go through artistic blocks that limit their capacity to produce art organically or experience its limitless potential. Whether it’s feeling like you aren’t good enough or that you are struggling to stay true to who you are within your art, being an artist surely comes with its struggles. Khaled Hafez, Egyptan visual painter, video, photography, and installation artist, whose work has been exhibited broadly world-wide, uses his art endeavour to inspire those who have gone through similar experiences. With numerous decades of artistic growth, the artist has gone through many evolving layers of development in attaining his artistic authenticity. By virtue of his grounded knowledge, Hafez provides every artist with 14 fundamental ways to experience art for all that it is and could be.
Don’t force it
“Don’t force it, build it,” Khaled stresses. He places emphasis on the cruciality of letting the work come by itself in order to let the process flow naturally. Always being in the studio for several hours, after a while with experience, let the process flow, let the work come by itself. “Don’t overthink it,” he stresses again. The way to do this is to transfer your techniques and everything you’ve been exposed to into your work. Embrace the flow, ride the waves, and don’t try to push through them or squeeze ideas that don’t feel intrinsic. The work should be flowing without infliction, because the viewer is always able to distinguish between when the work is forced and when it talks by itself.
Don’t rationalize the process
An artwork is and isn’t a mathematical process. The process of building an artwork, whatever that is, should follow your initial ideas. But the idea of thinking too much, of overthinking, of rationalizing, of forcefully attempting to make a meaning or structure out of everything you do, makes you fall into the trap of the explicit message. And the most important thing in the world is that all the elements in the artwork should be harmonious, and should talk to each other. By rationalizing the process, you put yourself in a manufactured work rather than an artwork that is born and is almost a living entity. A living entity is an organic entity, it is something that is viable by itself.
Deconstruct what you’ve learned and then build
The beauty of the practice of an artist is that by cumulative experience and by age, the experience of the artist is augmented by travel, by reading, by watching other art works, or by getting involved in other collaborative creative projects. With age, practice, exhibitions, and with talking to the public, this cumulative experience gains a lot of knowledge, which is “equivalent to a database.” In order to reach higher layers within your art, you must dismantle what you’ve learned and build from it, choose from it, select what applies to you independent of external influences. “Be like a poet,” Hafez emphasises, “you need to put everything back and select the proper words that align to your ideas.” By doing this, you are able to develop an artwork that is viable on its own.
Recreate your own value system
Every artist should recreate their own value system. They should not follow what has been done before or the established values in societies or in the art politics. A new artwork is like a baby born, it’s organic, its alive, and it knows nothing of the values of the universe into which it has been born. If an artist wants to create something that is very fresh, unique, authentic and new, he cannot create such an art work if you follow previously established set modes of thinking. All those are solid, as they existed at one minute in time for other purposes in the past, which is why you always have to revise the value systems and recreate your own.
“I always like to elaborate on the phenomenon that everything exists with its opposite.” So the idea is to assimilate both, the thing and its opposite, always. The thing that you build in an artwork becomes more prominent when you set it in the context of its opposite. “Remember always that when we deliver artworks, the artist in general, whatever medium they practice with, is proposing questions, no answers. So as they propose these questions, it implies something and its opposite. Is it this or that? Should I do this or that? “The this and the that,” are always dichotomies, they complement each other. And for you to divulge freely into your artwork, you must not resist such discords, but welcome them with open arms.
Don’t be restricted by political correctness
Here we must always say for the artist, political correctness is not about politics, but rather, art politics. Art politics means the ecosystem that the artist has to live within, the ecosystem the artist has to exhibit in, where he has to meet his or her gallery, audience, journalist, or institutions. The problem with political correctness, is that if you adopt it as a mindset, you become like the scientist who suffers from confirmation bias. Which means you know the results, and you are simply practicing in order to confirm the result, or in order to make a secured impression. By playing it safe, by striving to create an artwork within a sheltered framework, you restrict your artistic bounds. “Political correctness defies merit, the quality of the exhibition produced.” For an artist, political correctness means that you have a set of values that you need to follow. The most important thing in a new authentic artwork is that it’s born with its own rules and values, not yielded by those of others.
Learn technique before you explore yourself
“Personally it’s my belief as an artist, mentor, and educator that technique comes first. The bauhaus school’s motto, which is the most important school in modern times in the early 20th century, was art starts where technique ends.” An artist needs to study technique, learn, and improve on it constantly. This is when your ideas will flow. An artwork with a balance between concept and craft or technique and idea, enables a smoother development of an artistic piece. Hafez makes an analogy “to watching a movie with bad sound and bad image, this movie, no matter what idea it proposes, is a lousy movie.” The same thing, in an orchestra, “if you have fantastic performance and you have three technically poor performers, it diminishes the entire symphony of the performance. Technique comes first, technique, technique, technique.”
Don’t define your talent by the recognition of others
Talent is not necessarily dictated by the recognition of others, because the others around you, even if they are in the ecosystem, they are not the art producers, they are not the art makers, they’re just viewers in that case, even the art professionals. The opinion of others is not indicative of artistic value. In many situations, other factors that have nothing to do with talent affect recognition. More so, what an artist does in their own spaces, in their own studios, is that they produce what they have to produce, authentic works, new works, viable works that have never been done before. “The artist is the scientist who knows. The others, many times, especially if they are uneducated visually, can mislead you into a downhill.“
Propose questions rather than seek answers
A successful art work is one that engages with everybody, that sees the work, and drives everyone who sees it to ask questions and come up with a multiplicity of answers. An artwork that delivers an answer is artwork that is simplistic and it lives only for one second, and then you forget everything about it. “These questions elicit possible solutions, but they never deliver one single solution. And that is the difference between an artist as an agent in their societies and one who knows all the answers.”
There is no such thing as ONE artistic identity, your artistic identity is limitless
There is no one answer to anything, including the identity question. An artist, if they belong to one single identity or one single fingerprint in their artwork, they limit themselves. An artist is a traveller, traveller in thought, traveller in distance, traveller in time. With every travel an artist acquires another layer that with time, allows him to evolve from one state to the other and acquire a multiplicity of identities.
Differentiate between doing art to meet deadlines and doing it for yourself
Many artists in their careers when they become successful and are in demand, fall into the trap of working with deadlines. The best art in the world is the art done for the self, not for a deadline. It is the art done without pressure. The problem with done for deadlines or particular occasions, is that at so many times with the rush of time, we have to follow the management rule. We either do it right or do it fast. Right artwork and authentic artwork need it’s time to develop. “Just like a pregnancy, it cannot take any less than its needed time to deliver the baby.”
Don’t let the obstacles you face take away your faith in art
The most important thing for an artist is to sustain. Sustain means that you need to understand that individuals in the art world since modern times for the past 200 years, have never been successful all the time. There are ups and there are downs. The downs are so repressive, and many times they take longer than they should. The most important thing for an artist is to stick to his art, to understand that obstacles and creative blocks are a necessary part of being an artist.
Don’t compare yourself to other artists
“This rule I would put it always, you know many times when I mentor younger peers I say, never compare yourself to other artists. This is because there are always circumstances for every artist around you that are different than yours.” If you waste time looking around you, you will never enable yourself to grow by your own standards. For example, if an athlete spends time looking at whats happening in his side lane, he will never make it, and he will never give himself the opportunity to reach his best. This loss of focus, even if just for a second, distracts you, it limits you, and it may modify the natural flow of your artistic development. The most important thing is you develop your own language. Every artist is unique. Don’t look around, look at your own plate, focus on your own studio, on your own art production. This produces much more authentic and original art that will always be attributed to your own name.
Look around you without losing yourself
Look around, get experience, travel, read, and look at other artists as an observer. Go to museums, go to exhibitions, and expose yourself to your surroundings. This is how you learn and get into new experiences. But the most important thing, is to not let what you see take away from the core of who you are as a maker of art.