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!