I thought I would take some time to write about finding your voice as an artist. I really want to share my journey and help others find their way through the maze of being an artist.
So first, let’s define what a artist’s voice is and isn’t.
What it IS:
- A unique artistic style that you develop through practicing and trying things.
- Your inspiration and motivation for making art.
- Your preferred materials. This could vary a little from project to project. I wouldn’t have more than a few varieties.
- Your own personal technique. How you do things.
- Themes of your work. A particular subject matter, such as portraits.
- Your color palette.
What it ISN’T:
- It isn’t focusing on the monetary value or outcome, but what your heart wants to say first.
- It isn’t a formula or something you can plan for.
- It isn’t what someone else is doing that you copy or try on for size.
- It isn’t what someone else asks you to draw or pays for you to draw.
Now, these are not rules. In fact there really are no rules. All these are possibilities and probabilities and not sure fire have to’s.
How did I find my voice?
By accident. (I could end this post here honestly, but I won’t do that to ya!) I started out trying to monetize. I went for the route of portraiture and spent years developing a business and marketing plan. I created flyers and business cards that I held in office drawers for years never seeing the light of day. I knew somehow that for me, it wasn’t right. I had never felt confident in drawing portraits. I often tell folks that it’s hit or miss for me.
Next I went the way of illustration. I made all of these “stock” looking illustrations of business men climbing stairs and such. They were awful!! They had no heart and no sound follow through artistically. I used all kinds of mediums and it was all over the place. When I think about it now I know I was exploring and exploring hard at that!
I always loved ink and would often go back to it from time to time. I had read in several art marketing books that oil painting and acrylics was the only medium you could sell. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it and honestly felt sad every time I came across some sort of advice of that nature.
Eventually I started doing ink drawing regularly. I went back to basics just doing abstract shapes. I enjoyed the process a lot, but found that they were visually kind of boring and that other folks weren’t really as fascinated as I was. I was focusing on the crosshatching. I was memorized by just crosshatching my way across the paper. There was little feeling or inspiration, just shapes.
I eventually tried more complex compositions and came up with some unique abstracts that I really enjoyed. I didn’t follow any “laws” of gravity or space or depth. Often the shapes were so intermingled that they were confusing and yet I thought they were more interesting to the viewer. I could draw hundreds of these little sketches and ideas.
I tried various pens and ink colors and made a lot of swirls and box shapes. I was fascinated but there really was no meaning or purpose behind what I was doing. I was doodling in large scale. From time to time I still do these abstracts just because I find them fun and creative to draw.
I actually started my current style after being inspired by the movie Avatar. I loved the tree and how it was connected to all of life. It had meaning and purpose for me. I look back on it and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I was inspired by this movie. But, might as well be real and honest.
This is the first of it’s kind:
I often go back to this to “find” my voice. I’ve gone away from it at times here and there, but it’s at the heart of everything I’ve made since. It hangs in my home and it will always be special to me. I don’t think I could ever part from it.
Since then I have explored so many different avenues. I am now experimenting with color inks, but I know that my heart will always flow back to this starting point. I will always love my black ink and crosshatching and that’s where I will always land in the end.
Right now with the 100 day project I am really parting from it in order to learn and grow. I’m going to be drawing simple things like a flower or a butterfly and really study my subject matter. I am looking to expand my voice by exploring different subjects. In the end, even though I’m doing a few more traditional pieces here and there with this project, I could see a detailed butterfly or flower in any other artwork…next to some abstract shapes and graffiti swooshes and curls. It all works in the end.
I think sticking to medium and personal technique has afforded me a lot of wiggle room. I try to stay in the realm of nature and life and animals, which also helps. If I were to break very far from subject matter I think the medium and technique would hold up as being my voice, but it isn’t something that I want to push the boundaries of just yet.
You will often times find Christian themes in
my work, but they are usually subtle and
not in your face. I think focusing too much on that isn’t what my potential customers would enjoy. I’ve found a lot of non-believers are drawn to my work more than Christians are and I’m cool with that. But, those thoughts and ideas do come through at times because it’s a part of who I am.
One of the really cool things that I’ve enjoyed is looking back at older work that is in my voice and realizing how much of myself is in them. I’m shocked sometimes and it could be a decade before I realize something is there that I didn’t intend to be. What’s extra cool is no one really knows but me, so it’s nice to have that to fall back on haha.
Let me know what you think and how did you find you’re voice? Or are you still searching? It’s a great and amazing journey that I’d never want to trade for anything. It took me a long time and I was frustrated often about it, but now I get to try things and explore more within that safe space that is my voice.