Want an easy way to find your artistic voice? I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret concept: create, experiment, and play, and then look for clues. For example, look for certain materials, techniques, or styles that you embrace often. Seth Apter is here to help you discover this evidence, whether it’s a style of painting or collaging papers, incorporating words, or specific color palettes. Once you’re able to recognize your artistic voice, you can use that information like a megaphone and shout your style from the rooftops.
Below is Seth’s advice (from the Cloth Paper Scissors; 2015 Annual CD; get it here) for discovering your artistic style so that you’re even more empowered to create amazing mixed-media art that’s all you. Make sure you read all the way through–there’s an announcement about how you can win some supplies for your stash.
Own Your Own Voice by Seth Apter
We all know artists who have signature styles. When we see their work, we can immediately identify it as theirs and theirs alone. This is true for the great Masters, many well-known contemporary artists, and a host of people in our mixed-media art community as well. But this is not the case for everyone.
I’ve heard many artists say that they’ve had difficulty finding their own distinctive style or identifying a label that accurately describes the work they create. More and more people simply don’t want to imitate the look of others. They’re no longer satisfied with making cookie-cutter projects or are tired of struggling to identify their niche as artists. They want their own voice.
If these scenarios sound familiar, take a moment to recognize that this is a good problem to have. It means you’re stepping out of the shadows and into your own light. It means that you have enough confidence in your abilities to begin to rely on your talent and instincts. Rather than approach the issue with frustration, think of this as an exciting, creative opportunity.
Many times an artist’s style emerges organically over time. As such, sometimes the best way to find your voice is to simply create. And create again. And then create even more. Play. Experiment. Do the work. Regardless of the media you’re working in, you might observe certain characteristics that are common in much of what you create. These might be color, texture, subject, composition, or a variety of other elements. Use them as clues to recognize your artistic voice.
However, developing your own signature style can be challenging, even for artists who have been working for years. It just doesn’t seem to happen. But don’t give up. The following seven suggestions may help.
Play: Give yourself permission to play, without any preconceived plan. Clear the area, spread out the supplies, and just go for it. Grab whatever catches your eye. Mix materials that you usually don’t combine. Choose a supply that you’ve never opened. Work with no sense of where you’re going. When recess is over, see what you’ve created. Ask yourself, where did I end up? Sometimes our voices are clearest when we just let ourselves go.
Step Out: Choose a favorite mixed-media art how-to book or head to an online site with tutorials. Pick a project or technique that appeals to you. Instead of following it step-by-step, challenge yourself to change it up. Add a new step. Bring in a new material or technique. Do this a few times over the course of several months. In the end, identify your influences and see what you’ve brought to the table. It may be a key to your personal style.
Play Favorites: We all have artwork we’ve made that has special meaning—the pieces that we really love. The ones we pick to show other people. Gather and study them. What is it about those particular pieces that resonates with you? Make a list of the characteristics that you love. See if a theme emerges across all of your favorite work.
Obsess Less: As artists, we often hoard special objects or supplies, but can’t seem to use them in our work. Grab a bunch of these items and look at them as a group. Choose and use several of these treasured items to make a number of different creations. Because these materials speak to you so loudly, these new pieces of art just might provide a hint to your artistic voice.
Keep a Style File: We’ve all had the experience of seeing something that really grabs us. Keep a file of images that call your name. Don’t limit yourself to artwork. Clip a magazine ad that has just the right color or cool font. Don’t use these images in your art. Instead, as your file grows, try to see what themes are repeated. People are often attracted to styles that are very different from theirs, and for some this may be a clue to discovering their own voice.
Journal It: A visual journal is the perfect spot to find your style. Write down artful thoughts, words, and events. Doodle, draw, or paint anything that inspires you. Keep track of the results of these exercises in your journal. Do this without any concern about how good it is, and create with the idea that it’s for your eyes only. As your journal fills up, look for any recurring patterns among the entries.
Four Score: Choose four pieces of your art that either best represent you or are simply your personal favorites. Show all four pieces to four different people whose judgment you trust. Ask each person to write down four words that best describe your work. See what themes are repeated. Often we already have our own style but simply find it difficult to see. It may actually be very clear to others.
Go about the search for your voice with hope, excitement, and enthusiasm. Keep on creating and try some or all of these exercises. You just might find your voice, echoing loud and clear. ~Seth
After reading Seth’s advice, I hope you’re able to start forming an idea of what your artistic style may be, and that you’ll continue exploring it through these helpful exercises. Does one speak to you the most? Tell us which one by commenting on this blog post for your chance to WIN* some exciting mixed-media art supplies.
And, add a year’s worth of mixed-media art inspiration, techniques, and tips with the 2015 Cloth Paper Scissors Annual CD. It’s the perfect resource for when you’re ready to hone your artistic voice.
*We’ll choose a random winner on March 28, 2016. Winner must be a U.S. resident due to international contest rules and regulations.
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