“To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.” – Pablo Picasso
Everyone has a unique creative voice because no two lives, and no two stories are the same. In my books, videos, and recent Create Your Own Oracle Deck e-course, I have made it a priority to help students tap into their own singular and authentic voice. Finding this voice is more than an artistic adventure—it can also be a route to healing and a way of validating your own unique presence in the world. For artists who wish to sell their work, being genuine is also the chief way to differentiate your art in a crowded marketplace. So dive deep, embrace the journey, and get ready to hear five ways you can strengthen the magical lilt of your unique artistic voice!
1. Don’t try to make art that sells. Really? Yes. This is my golden rule. In the advertising age, especially with the advent of the Internet and social media, we are bombarded daily with clickbait images designed to sell products, and they are often generically beautiful. Yet, when people invest in art—or an artist—what they want most is to purchase art from the heart. They want to buy art because it represents the artist’s unique, authentic vision. Creating art in your voice is the best way to connect with your audience and yourself.
2. Begin with your eyes closed. The main path to finding your authentic voice is to look inward. We can’t do this while gazing lovingly at another artist’s work or by scrolling through Instagram. Instead, we must carve out time for our own imaginations to bloom. This is often easier said than done, but put on your favorite music, grab a sketchbook and ear buds, and allow yourself to daydream for about 15 minutes. Afterward, sketch anything that comes to mind or just journal about your ideas. This little exercise really flexes your imagination muscle. Most importantly, it gives you time and space to honor your own beautiful heart and spirit.
3. Instead of saying, “I can’t,” say, “I’ll try.” Close your eyes and imagine something you have never drawn before, then try drawing it. Often I’ve had students tell me they can’t draw people, or they don’t do animals, only to find that they can, indeed, draw anything they imagine. The issue is not that we can’t draw, it’s that we are afraid our drawings will be less than perfect. Yet these perceived imperfections are exactly what create our own style. Keep drawing your own “bad” elephants, and after awhile they will become a charming, loveable staple of your work. The only bad drawings are the ones we never complete.
4. Create a big series of small works. So often we’re tempted to convey our worth with a bold, ambitious statement. When I first decided to become an artist, I bought a huge 4′ x 4′ canvas and started painting. Yet this was not how I found my creative voice. The real discovery came from a journal I filled every day with 4″ x 4″ mini paintings. After a year, I could see my unique line work, color choices, and storylines emerging. A great way to supplement this daily creating is to share it on social media as part of a 30-day or 100-day challenge, or through an online class. The commitment to share your work will inspire you to keep going. Plus, the more we practice our craft, the more we will be able to improvise in ways that show our originality.
5. Create an inspiration board of your own work. I know this sounds self-centered, but your artistic voice is worth cheering! And what better way to encourage your special way of looking at the world than to pin it to the wall as inspiration? I have an inspiration board pinned up behind my drawing table that features characters, flowers, animals, and patterns that I’ve drawn. When I paint, I often recombine these elements in new ways, and this helps to keep my work consistent. It also reminds me that my inner vision is worthy. When starting out on a creative journey, we are tempted to copy well-known styles and artists, and we are quick to create walls of inspiration from their work. Creating an inspiration board in honor of you is a great way to validate—and even celebrate—your authentic voice. You’re worth it!
Cathy Nichols is a full-time encaustic artist, oracle card and stencil designer, and the author of Storytelling Art Studio: Visual Expressions of Character, Mood and Theme in Mixed Media (North Light Books) as well as the host of the Storytelling Art Collection of DVDs (ArtistsNetworkTV). She lives in North Carolina and teaches in-person and online workshops. See more of Cathy’s work at joi-ful.com.
Cathy Nichols is the Cloth Paper Scissors Artist of the Month for June! Discover her fantastic projects and techniques for mixed media in her book, videos, and Art Lessons.