how to mentor creative talent

Girl Observing, Oil on Canvass, Veronica Santagata 2010

Do you sew, knit, do interior design, paint, do pottery, write? Does your craft give you pleasure?  How about helping someone else in his or her creative pursuits?

Giving support to young talent is a gift that keeps on giving.  It's one thing for a young person to get an education in art or an apprenticeship in an artisan craft. To be able to receive help from someone older who understands the process is quite another.

If you have a creative discipline, you might want to consider mentoring a young artist.  There are few things more satisfying than helping someone younger find his or her way in the creative arts.  Here are the keys to successful creative mentoring.

The goal is to support and help, not teach. You are not there to teach a discipline, rather to help with things a person cannot learn in school.  Things like:  getting organized, how to get past a creative block, how to present ones's work, becoming open to new creative ideas.

Listen.  Listen carefully to what he/she is telling you.  Help them sort out their own thoughts about their work - you can only do that by knowing what their thoughts are.  Chances are not many people are listening to him/her.  By doing so you not only grasp what's going on, but you gain trust as well.

Don't lecture. "Well, when I was your age..." is the sure fire way to get someone to turn off.  Instead use terminology such as "Have you thought of this possible angle?"

Give positive critique.  Don't hammer a young person's work.  Suggest areas for improvement, if you see them.  But balance the critique with the positive aspects of the work you are being shown.

Be available.  Make time to be a mentor. Give it importance and priority. But don't force yourself on the young talent.  Let him/her come to you.

In the end, their creativity is their responsibility. If your special artist decides to walk away from creativity for awhile,  you might want to question why, but don't nag.  Leave the door open for him /her to come back to talk to you.  It's up to each individual artist to move the creative process forward.  Act as a support, not as a parent.  The fact that you do not shut out or judge  him/her will be of tremendous value.

It's so gratifying to help someone else - and to give inspiration to others.  If you have a talent, please consider giving it forward in the form of mentoring.  You won't regret it for one second.

I am currently mentoring a wonderful young woman named Veronica Santagata.  She's a fine artist - a discipline very different than mine.  But we find common ground in the basis of inspiration and creativity.  We talk for hours about what motivates us, how to unblock and free our creative talents. She can be found painting at our B&B (when she's not helping me make breakfast or delivering the mail - she's a "postina", the mailgirl!!).

Veronica is currently working on a beautiful series of girls and women of different ethnic backgrounds.  The painting above is the first in the series.  For more information, contact me at dianabaur (at) gmail (dot) com.