Ep 68 Featured Image Podcast

Embracing the Unknown in Your Art – Nicholas Wilton – Ep 68

February 8, 2023


In a world filled with ever-growing uncertainty, running from what is unknown can feel like a natural response. Why wouldn’t you want to pursue something with an assured outcome? However, as artists, we must understand the role of the unknown in developing our creativity. Join me as I explore how embracing the unknown in our art creates better work and better artists.

Listen if you are interested in…

  • Exploring our fear of the unknown and my first workshop [2:24]
  • Reframing the unknown [8:11]
  • Addressing the unknown and finding creative freedom [15:53]
  • Using art to embrace uncertainty [21:00]

The upside of the unknown

We are trained to avoid the unknown. Part of that comes from our innate desire for control. If we can’t control something, then the outcome is uncertain. Which feels unsafe, right? So much of our lives have been filled with uncertainty these past few years. Between the pandemic and the Bay Area fires, I know mine has. But I think this idea of the unknown gets a bad rap because it’s often associated with fear. But the unknown in creativity is actually one of our greatest tools as artists. If I failed to embrace it in my art (and life), I don’t know where I’d be. I would have never told my friend Ken about my desire to teach workshops, and he wouldn’t have given me the opportunity. Art2Life probably wouldn’t exist. So many things in my life have been made better by learning to embrace the unknown in my art-making.  

Exploring external versus internal unknowns

There are two types of unknowns in our life: external and internal unknowns. External unknowns happen outside of ourselves. They are the things that happen to us that create fear. Everything from making your rent to wondering if your car will break down is an external unknown. However, internal unknowns are entirely different. The internal unknown is where everything is derived from. The unknown in your art and in who you are as a person is where you source all the amazing things that come from your art. The unknown in yourself is where intuition comes in. We don’t get to know what we’re making in our art ahead of time. We can kind of plan it. We can look outside of ourselves and see what other people are making. But the invitation is to go deeper into this uncertainty, into the unknown part of yourself.

Wild and free

The first step to embracing the unknown in your art is to start making something. You can’t just sit down and figure it out in your head. You have to get in motion. The unknown in art starts to become known through the process of creation. And the key to starting that process is learning to relinquish control. As an illustrator, my art practice was all about control. When I transitioned to fine art, I began learning that the more control I gave up, the more freedom I had. And the more freedom I had and the more spaciousness I gave myself to not know a little bit, the better the work became. It became harder to make, but it was way more interesting. Letting ourselves wander into the unknown and sit with it, pay attention to it, and feel what needs to come out of it creates amazing and powerful art.

Resources & People Mentioned

  • Enroll in the FREE five day Art2Life workshop starting February 13th! 

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Nicholas Wilton

Hi! I’m
Nicholas Wilton
the founder of Art2Life.

With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.

Join me and artists from all over the world in our Free Art2Life Artists Facebook Group or learn more here about Art2Life.

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