Alexandra & Afra - Young Collectors Experience Behind an Artist’s Psyche Tandem Al Emarat participant Alexandra Ivanova (IEDC Dubai) partnered with Afra Aldhaheri (Bait 15) to work on Young Collectors Experience. In this story, Alexandra shares her self relfection about an individual's creative journey in the context of the UAE, and tells us about her reading of Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way. Repurposed bathtub in nature. Photo by Alexandra Ivanova. There is one thing that struck me at Tandem Al-Emarat from day one: I noticed many budding artists around me, passionate creatives, hidden talents and disillusioned adults. Having worked in the cultural sector, both on the private and public side, I came to observe that most of the people who work in the cultural field have considered a creative path at least once in their life, be it seriously or just as a utopian thought experiment. I often noticed that most have a form of passion or strong appreciation for an art form and rarely end up in the cultural field by sheer coincidence. In the process of setting an explorative step into the creative field myself, I completed Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, which is a three-month self-study course to recover and express your creativity. What I did not expect is the amount of psychological and reflective work that these pages would involve. Julia Cameron sheds light on the psychology of an artist, or ‘shadow artist’, as she calls people who would like to embark in a creative career but never dared to and hide behind the safety of offices, academia and agencies as analysts, critics, managers and theorists. Being, or becoming an artist according to Cameron is a spiritual matter. She highlights the importance of self-reflection, self-confidence, faith and a support network, which all serve to protect the psyche and keep an artist in the flow of creating more work while battling self-doubt and risks. I believe that this topic is very relevant in the UAE, a place where many careerists are drawn to – and also a place full of shadow artists. It is a particularly difficult environment to sustain a career as an independent artist and only few people start with or are able to build up a local support network to embark on that path. Our Tandem was part of a group of artists, curators and researchers who participated in a roundtable discussion at the Art Jameel Youth Assembly Takeover in April 2019, entitled ‘Imagining a New Arts landscape’. While it was relatively easy to highlight the structural and institutional challenges and shortcomings of the UAE arts landscape, we only briefly touched upon the personal stories of each person and how they approach their work under the set rules and limitations. Given the challenge of what it means to be an independent artist in the UAE, I wondered if they had the same doubts as Julia Cameron mentions in her book. Were they all born into artist families? Did they come from a different field? Although Dubai and Abu Dhabi provide quite different environments for artistic work, I explored whether budding, emerging and established artists had something in common in terms of their psyche. Between photography, poetry, playwriting and music, I conducted a series of interviews which revolved around the topics of self-doubt, support networks, identity as an artist and rituals to keep faith in your practice. It was striking how many similarities there are between artists in the UAE, despite different mediums, environments and stages of their professional career. What struck me most is that they all had an early supporter, someone in their friends or family circle who encouraged them to create more, regardless of the stage of their artistic development. Some also had compliments and feedback from mentors or people they looked up to. The support network is crucial, according to Julia Cameron, it encourages an artist to keep creating. And at the very beginning, it is not the quality but the quantity that matters, according to her. The more you create, the more you battle self-doubt – the biggest doubt and common denominator of all my interviewees – the better you get in your art, the more faith you have in creating more, the more you avoid creative blocks or staying blocked altogether as a shadow artist. The most interesting learning point for me was that artists do not seem to talk about these topics a lot, and the series of interviews triggered an interest in developing a podcast to focus on the psyche and creative process of artists in the UAE as a continuation of the Tandem project.