Before I begin my blog entry I want to take the opportunity to apologize. It appears that my email account was compromised yesterday. Anyone who received a link to a certain weight-loss program originating from my email account, please disregard this email. I have taken measures to prevent such an inconvenience in the future… but one never knows. Thank you to all who took the time to email me directly. I appreciate your proactive approach.
Susan S. posted the following question in the comment section on March 31st:
My question is how to find and develop a personal voice: I seem to dabble in many styles and haven’t found one that seems to be mine.
Thank you for posting your question, Susan. To develop or find one’s voice or special style is a journey and a vital part of every artist’s life. I am trying to think back to 2004 when I was concerned about the exact same issue. At the time I had four large scale pieces in a group exhibition. One of my fellow exhibitors passed by and exclaimed “I would know your work anywhere!” I was puzzled and asked her what she meant by this. She was the first person to provide me with feedback about my work, which featured “connections” between smaller pieces to form a whole.
I will never forget this moment and the feeling I experienced. Since then I continue to ask myself with each piece I create and each body of work I exhibit if I have a strong enough voice/style. I also reflect on how I arrived at “my style.”
My personal journey began in July 1997 when I registered for a City & Guilds Embroidery and Design course, offered in Coupeville, WA at that time. Classes began in August and I did not anticipate that it would become a life altering experience. The courses took place over five continuous days with several weeks between to complete homework assignments and assessment pieces. The 3+ years certificate course led to Patchwork and Quilting and the Diploma levels of the programs.
I attended sessions for a total of eight years, the last two were completed on line with my tutor in England. Why am I providing this time line? I am trying to share that exposure to teachers and interaction in the peer group was vital for my learning process. City & Guilds education provided a wonderful balance between design exercises, the creation of samples in one’s chosen medium and the actual completion and presentation of work.
The key to developing my voice/style was the constant experimentation with new materials, pushing forward with original and innovative designs and an ongoing challenge to create a body of work.
Around the same time that I was ready to graduate with my second diploma (July 2005) I overheard someone’s comment that sounded close to “Stop studying – you have a lot of knowledge. It is time for you to go out into the world and share your knowledge and apply your skills!” I took this advice (which was not directly intended for me!) and moved forward.
Back to Susan’s question: If you feel you have not found your specific style, voice or technique, pull out everything you have created, including photos of the work. Carefully examine each piece and if possible group the work together. Take notes of why the pieces relate. Now choose one of these groupings and make plans to expand on the subject matter, technique, consistent color way or unique materials. Create another piece to add to the grouping of work. Set a definite goal to expand the work by one or two pieces a month. Soon you will have a body of work that is unified by a common theme. Once you are satisfied with one group move on to the next and begin to expand on its commonalities.
Another great way for strengthening one’s voice is to join a critique group. Invite like-minded artists, they don’t have to necessarily work in the same medium as you. A broad set of skills will provide valuable, varied feedback and educational moments.
Let’s turn this over to the readers of the blog: Leave a comment and suggestion below. We will be following the topic with interest!
And just a quick reminder: The question I answered today was posted on March 31st in conjunction with my art give-away contest. It is not too late to add your question to the comment section for a chance to win the framed art. The draw takes place on May 15th. Read more here about the details!
Thank you, Anna, for a wonderful reply: you have given much to think upon.
I appreciated your idea to group works by theme, and found trees and leaves everywhere. I have also been seeking a quilting community, but we are all so supportive that it is difficult to find a critical voice.
One error I have made is to confuse technique with style. In my reading and browsing of teachers’ and students’ work, I am beginning to see that even when the technique is the same the style is not.
I will be returning to your thoughts often.
You are welcome, Susan. Stay in touch!
Hello Anna – I’m new here, and this is the first post I’ve received – I read at the bottom of the post that “click here” to find out more about the May 15 deadline for a draw for framed art. However when I clicked there, I could not find anything of those details. Could you please help me find the exact site location? Thanks.
Welcome to my blog. Try this link to read the contest details
this is an area that I have been thinking about more and more, so I appreciate reading your thoughts on this Anna! (In fact when I saw the question in the earlier comments, I’ve been watching for your answer.) I currently feel like I am all over the place – I like to try everything at least once, but so far, I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve found a lot of consistency! But, I will take your words to heart and continue to explore and experiment, and I’m sure I’ll reach that point where my voice finds itself. Thank you!
Hi Janet, glad this post was of help. There is never just one answer or option. Keep working and your voice will emerge and be heard!
As always, Anna, your posts make me think and reflect. I’m not sure that I’ve found my voice yet although I do see some trends in some of my original pieces such as flowers & leaves. I do know; however, that I do not want to do what others do other than to work through a project that teaches me a new skill or technique that I can then apply to my own designs. I think my voice will develop as I continue to practice, but I also hope it will evolve as I grow as an artist too.
Susan, I think you have hit the proverbial nail on the head – your voice will indeed develop as you continue to practice your skills. My own voice is ever evolving and as I push my work to new heights I know my style will change or adjust…
Thanks Anna for your thoughts on this question. I find that I also dabble with this and that, without really being tuned in to just what I to do. I will take your suggestions and see what happens.
Linda, how wonderful to hear from you! Glad you found today’s post helpful. Keep in touch and email me privately if you need input.
I was interested to read your post today Anna as I’ve recently been doing some investigation of this same idea of “individual voice” but in the context of writing style.I like your comments and think they can apply across a range of creative endeavors. Most salient points that I take from your post are the notions that one’s “voice” will evolve over time and through experience. I also like your suggestion of joining a critique group. It means having confidence and courage…stepping out of a comfort zone.
Thanks for weighing in. I completely agree with your observation that my post is no exclusive to fiber artists but can also be transferred to writing.