Last week, BBC aired an episode of the show What Do Artists Do All Day? featuring acclaimed British artist Yinka Shonibare. One of my favourites, Yinka Shonibare is a sculptor, painter, photographer and filmmaker exploring cultural identity, politics and post-colonialism. In addition to the excitement I get every time I see his work, I now have a number of valuable lessons to help me on my artistic journey.

1. Find your focus

Photo: Reading by Yinka Shonibare

Art does not come by accident. Ideas, maybe — but if you want to create something, you will need to discipline yourself into the practice of creating.

“I don’t think that you can be very successful at what you do if you’re not focused…you do have to be quite disciplined to be an artist…artists are some of the most disciplined people around.”

2. There are two versions of your art

Photo: Space Walk by Yinka Shonibare

The ideal version lives in your mind’s eye, and the real version turns up on a page, on a recording or in physical space. Understanding the difference between these two will speed up your process and save you some heartache.

3. There is magic in anonymity

Photo: Supper by Yinka Shonibare

When it comes to literature, there’s a huge focus on identity and developing fully-rounded characters. There is, however, a certain magic in exploring ideas through anonymous figures, as Shonibare does.

4. Being authentic is as simple as being you

Photo: Self Portrait 2 by Yinka Shonibare

In the world we live in, people are heavily reliant on tropes and stereotypes. As artists, we must learn to rise above this. Authenticity is not about reference to a set of traditions and common patterns; it’s about self-discovery and honesty.

“One of my tutors said, ‘why aren’t you making authentic African art?’ and I just didn’t know what he meant by that, really. So, I kept trying to find out what authentic african art is…”

5. Trust your team

Photo: Diary of a Victorian Dandy by Yinka Shonibare

Shonibare has found a talented team and he trusts them to use their skills to deliver his vision.

6. You have to push through

Photo: Ladder by Yinka Shonibare

Sometimes, particularly toward the end of your creative process, you have all the elements but they just won’t come together. This is the crucial tipping point — you have to push through. Just when you think you’re not going to get it done, it starts to happen.

7. Don’t let anything stop you

Photo: Yinka Shonibare

At the age of 19, Shonibare developed Transverse Myelitis which left him paralysed. Yet, despite having a disability from almost the beginning of his artistic career, he has not allowed it to prevent him from creating truly amazing artwork.

“It’s not actually stopped my work. I find it really difficult to figure how my work would be different if I didn’t have some of the physical difficulties because  literally it happened just before I started college, so I’ve always worked with some physical restrictions…If you’re used to something, you don’t think about it really. You just get on with it I guess.”

Want to share your own lesson? Keep the list going in the comments below.