As an art therapist and artist, I frequently receive the request, “May I see your art?”
As with most topics in life, the answer falls on a spectrum.
On one end of the spectrum, I have art that is already in the public eye.
I have my large, abstract paintings hanging on the walls in my art therapy private practice lobby. Anyone who enters is welcome to see them.
I have mixed media collages and illustrations that I tie with my essays on my blog, which anyone on the internet can peruse.
If individuals want to see my art, it is out there.
On the other end of the spectrum, I create art that is solely intended for me.
I’ve been filling art journals with my inner thoughts and art since 2017 (I’ve actually been doing it my entire life, but I’ve only been doing it daily since 2017). I’m currently filling my 50th journal since 2017.
The journals are for me. I may choose to share select images (such as ones I pair with my essays on my blog), but I would never allow someone to simply flip through one of my journals. They are for me and for my own processing. I write and create art differently when I know no one else will see it.
I also have “process” art that I destroy. It is art that is solely intended for me to process through something I am experiencing or feeling. Art that is not about the end product. Art that can be ripped up, burned, crumpled, played with, or whatever I want. These pieces do not survive long enough for others to see or experience them.
Then there is the middle of the spectrum: art that I am creating that is in progress. New large abstract acrylic paintings I’m working on. New collages I’m piecing together. Little watercolors I’m playing with.
My desire to share these largely depends on how I’m feeling in the moment. If I’m excited, sometimes I’ll share “in-progress” shots with my close friends. Other times I’m so in the moment that I don’t share anything.
This is the art that people typically ask to see. I believe it comes from a genuine curiosity and desire to connect. I appreciate the request. It lets me know someone is interested in what I am doing and wants to connect with me.
I typically don’t respond with sharing art in the moment, but knowing the interest is there gives me permission to share in the future when I am in the mood.
So the advice I would give to others who are curious about seeing someone's art is to let it be on the artist's timeline. Say, “If there’s ever anything you would like to share now or in the future, I would love to see more of your art.”
This request opens the door without placing an immediate demand on the artist.
This also creates a set up for a much more intimate experience. The artist can circle back when they are ready to share their art and connect on a deep level.