Friday, November 22, 2013

Finding Your Artistic Voice

One of the most interesting things of all great artists is to see how they evolve. Picasso had formal training but "drifted" towards a more surreal, abstract style that by the end of his career would never have been predicted at the start. If you've seen the movie "Pollack" you see the same, I guess you'd call it, maturing. However, by the end you have to wonder if the return to drunkenness was because he felt that he was at the end of his artistic prowess. He couldn't find a new artistic voice. He had nothing more to say. Some have said the same of Van Gogh. I feel that one's growth as an artist is the ability to change, to mature constantly striving for a clearer inner vision. Monet comes to mind.

I'm reading Scott Adams of "Dilbert" fame who says he believes there is a difference between a goal and a system. A goal is some target you try to reach and you may but also with greater frequency may not reach it. That leads to confusion and you become depressed thinking yourself a failure. A system is where you do something in a systemic way regardless and that in the doing it on a systemic basis reach what some would consider many goals. He mentions Ernest Hemingway's writing secret. Each and every day, the very first thing he did was write 500 words. Everything stopped until that was done. Once done he could, and did, drink the day away. However, he could write those books because he had a system. I've heard other authors says something similar.

"White Fence" at an early stage.
While I don't have a goal, I don't have a system either. It is something I need to do. Each and every day, for a few hours, maybe even just an hour, I need to paint...a canvas, birdhouse, tray, anything because each and every time I will become a little bit better at my craft. Already, after several years, I am amazed by how far I've come, especially in my painting. I do know that Adams makes sense. I need to find my own voice, not the one I think others want but the one I want. The one that is me and mine.

A case in point is "White Fence" that I started yesterday. I have tried now for 5 or 6 years to "loosen" my style. Why? I don't know. However, what I paint, while relatively loose close up often becomes very realistic even a few feet away. This was a scene I saw in a garden that I took a photo of after studying it quite carefully. I loved the play of colors around the central white fence.

"White Fence" at a middle stage
I used a black green to cover the entire canvas. White pencil marked where the fence would go in what was in many ways a very formal layout. However, the way the plants and flowers were arranged in front of and behind the fence was anything but formal. Three tones of green were haphazardly put on the canvas giving the intimation of leaves. Then several pinks and a rusty pink serve as a backdrop for the much brighter flowers in front. Browns were added for the foreground dirt and then I began to put in the flowers behind the fence. When thats done, then the flowers in front will be added.

Using simple small dabs of paint I attempted to recreate the flowers but randomly. I wanted this to be looser, informal and colorful. The exuberance of the flowers demanded this. But as I applied the paint that gave depth to the painting I was surprised that I could finally achieve something that I had long wanted. Its not finished yet and while I love the balance and color now, there is still room for error, of doing too much and ruining what is a lovely small garden piece.

So, I am attempting to find my voice. I'm finding that it is much harder than I thought. I find, however, that in my case my mind takes control of my hands and does things I am not expecting. I urge everyone in whatever artistic endeavor to search for and find their voice. As Malcolm Gladwell says, anyone can master anything if they put 10,000 hours into it. Well, at 68 I don't know if I have 10,000 hours left in me but I am willing to give it a try.

Thank you for reading. Please visit my store at Christmas is coming and I have a wide variety of crafts and paintings in a variety of price points!

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