Finding your voice

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Dear Artist,

Recently, Judith Meeks of Toronto, ON, Canada, wrote, “I’ll soon be chairing a panel discussion called ‘Finding Your Voice.’ In your understanding, how do we translate our life experiences into our paintings and express who we really are? We may have good work habits, but how do we become clear about what we want to say? And how much can be done with a conscious plan?”

Thanks, Judith. This is one of those sticky head-scratchers that can cause the loss of sleep. First off, and contrary to what I’ve said before, plans can actually derail the voice-finding process. Further, you have to know what you mean by “voice.” Voice in style is different than voice in cause. Ideally, style develops over time. Cause is based on attitude and issue. With growth and development, causes change. A predetermined voice shackles creativity. To find your very own voice, I think you need to have a few things going for you:

You need to make stuff. Artists who put in regular working hours find their voice. Work itself generates clarity and direction. It’s like invention — one thing leads to another. One must only lurk for voice. Unfortunately, along the way, most drop the ball. Like the dilettante inventor of the soft drink “6-up,” they just don’t stick around long enough.

You need hunger. It can be the hunger for knowledge or for self-knowledge. It can be the desire to find an antidote for some injustice or human miscalculation. Perhaps you need some inexplicable, deep-seated compulsion to keep moving forward.

You need curiosity. Wondering how things will turn out is more powerful than having a pretty good idea beforehand. Wondering if you can do it gives you reason to try. Curiosity is the main juice of “ego-force” that keeps you keeping on.

You need joy. You need to feel joy in yourself and you need to feel you’re giving it to others. As Winston Churchill said, “You may do as you like, but you also have to like what you do.” A disliked job is soon abandoned.

I’m writing you from a remote anchorage off Grenville Channel on the West Coast of British Columbia. I’m thinking human nature is a mighty puzzle. Every time I go onto one of these islands looking for something to paint, I ask myself the old “What’s my voice?” question. One thing for sure, if I go ashore knowing what my voice is, it will be a weak squawk when I get to the spot.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Why this hunger to write — I always ask myself — if not the longing to discover what I believe? The pen divines my thoughts.” (David Conover in One Man’s Island)

Esoterica: “What’s my voice?” has to be asked by each individual artist. Committee-free, the artist needs to develop her voice as if on an island. To be a voice is to be a different voice, set apart, unique. How to find it? Go to your island, put in long hours, fall in love with process — your voice will come out of your work.



Honesty is the best policy
by Scott Kahn, NY, USA


I went through a period in my twenties which was crucial to my development as an artist. I realized I had to “find my own voice.” I was still young and looking at what was “popular” in the New York art world at the time. I realized I had to throw off all derivative elements so that my work would not be “compared” to any other artist or movement. It was a conscious effort. Every time I saw a derivative element, I simply stopped using it and threw it out. This forced me to look within. It was a very organic, and at times difficult, process which took several years. Eventually, I began to accept what I could do and what I couldn’t do. I slowly began to realize what my strengths and weaknesses were. I determined to emphasize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. Although I paint landscapes, portraits, interiors, still life, it is with a language I can call my own. I think it also takes a ruthless honesty with oneself. If one admires or is influenced by anyone else, one is not being true to oneself. I think above all else, this is the key: to be honest with oneself.



A voice she didn’t know she had
by Susanne Forestieri, Las Vegas, NV, USA


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“Back Stage I” (left)
“Flamenca III” (right)
oil paintings by Susanne Forestieri

For the last twenty years or so I’ve painted small intimate images based on my photographs of backstage scenes, family and friends. About a year ago I felt an urge to stop using photographs and approach each canvas or panel with an open mind, as a sort of experiment. Moving, gouging and scraping thick layers of paint with various palette knives, to the accompaniment of flamenco music, I found a voice I didn’t know I had.

There are 2 comments for A voice she didn’t know she had by Susanne Forestieri

From: Cristina Monier — Jul 27, 2010

You have found a powerful voice! Congratulations! Something similar happened to me, check my web site www.cristinamonier.com.ar

From: anonymous — Jul 29, 2010

When you “found your voice’ you found something that was a lot easier to do, but it lacks the sheer energy and lusciousness of your figurative work. Also your previous works were complex and satisfying compositions with mystery and energy. I’m sorry, but “easy art” while it might be your voice, it is a weak voice, that will soon become boring and passe.





Read the whole thing through
by John Smith, Durban North, South Africa


When I started reading this letter I was frowning and didn’t think I was going to agree but as I read on I found myself agreeing more. Lesson; read things through with thought and then you often learn something. In giving up before the conclusion you almost always lose out. Recently I developed a bad habit of being lazy and skimming or dropping articles after a few paragraphs. Even the mere act of making yourself read to the end strengthens your focus and concentration. Bad focus and bad concentration = bad paintings!

There are 2 comments for Read the whole thing through by John Smith

From: Sandy Donn — Jul 27, 2010

Wow. . .stunning revelation and so true. Something we already “know” but need reminding of. Thanks John!

From: Anonymous — Dec 27, 2010




A voice of happy surprises
by Terrie Christian, Plymouth, MN, USA


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“Eli’s Flowers”
watercolour by Terrie Christian

On any given day, I have no plan in mind. Some days it begins as just putting down abstract shapes and colors then “seeing” what they tell me and developing that. Other times a shape that is somewhat representational appears. If it is flowers, I do not count the petals or try to make them “real,” but I do repeat the shapes somewhat. I love watercolor and the way it mixes together to give me surprises I could not dream of in my head, but I allow it to happen as I choose my next color. For me, it is all about the fun of playing with the colors and shapes. This is what my voice seems to be. I also love the warped nature of what develops. Part of the fun then is when others view the painting and tell me what they see. Often, people who say they do not like abstracted work tell me they like mine.

There are 4 comments for A voice of happy surprises by Terrie Christian

From: Anonymous — Jul 27, 2010

Love your painting, Terrie. I call what you describe, a “paint jam”, letting the work tell me what to do next. A lot like jazz.

From: Anonymous — Jul 28, 2010

What life,,what color…so fresh,,,,love it!

From: Brian Bastedo — Jul 29, 2010

what a nice piece,Terrie…nice and loose, colors work really well; good stuff!!

From: jcb — Aug 08, 2010

Yes, I like this.





Secret of the unstoppable voice
by Linda Muttitt, Fort Langley, BC, Canada


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“Morning Shadows”
watercolour by Linda Muttitt

This question got me thinking about what my voice is in my art. What I realized was, it’s an expression of who I am in the moment I’m painting, as well as all the depth of what I value and believe. It’s the sensory touch points that surround you while you paint. It’s just something that can’t really be articulated because there’s too much to it. Words don’t fit. Can’t prescribe or order it. That’s the mystery of most amazing things in this life. The more I tried to put words to it, the more I realized there aren’t any. You end up circling around and around with a whirlpool of words that never quite get there never finding the target. If I want to have my true voice expressed, I just encourage myself to have “all cells and self open,” and then move the damn brush. Uninterrupted by intellectual questioning or emotional judging, true voice comes through — it’s unstoppable.

There is 1 comment for Secret of the unstoppable voice by Linda Muttitt

From: gail caduff-nash — Aug 10, 2010

then move the damn brush. that’s good. thanks for reminding me.





A voice of lesser importance
by Doug Key, Greensboro, NC, USA


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“Sunday Morning on the Sorge”
original painting by Doug Key

To me, finding my voice is just one aspect of my development as an artist. I find myself painting tightly in some works and loosely in others but I don’t worry as much as I used to about finding that specific balance between the two. My focus is to make sure I am pulling off visual effects, such as distance, light and shadow. The techniques I use to accomplish the effects, as well as good composition, seem to be more important as I work towards a hopefully successful painting. If my voice comes across, that’s great, and maybe it will get someone excited enough to promote or purchase my works.

There is 1 comment for A voice of lesser importance by Doug Key

From: Sarah — Jul 28, 2010

Love this painting–your voice definitely comes across!





‘Work in your garden’
by oliver, TX, USA


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“SIL38”
print by oliver

I’ve always found that those who try very hard to find their voice don’t. At most they become introspective and self-absorbed and seldom manage to create a portfolio of work that consistently reaches beyond the self involved. Those that practice their craft, experiment and work tend to find patterns and methods that appeal to them as they develop. These stylistic tendencies become the tools that become the library with which other layers of meaning, message, joy, sadness, contemplation and indeed political, religious or other messages can be developed. As one goes through life these broader life experiences can be expressed with the developing and evolving tools.

The Jefferson Airplane had a song “White Rabbit” one of the lines was “feed your head,” Voltaire said “work in the garden,” Plato said something about the pure forms or essences. If you work in the garden, feed your head to find the pure forms or essences in the many layers of your work — your “voice” will find itself.



The constancy of change
by Fleta Monaghan, Asheville, NC, USA


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“23 Fitzroy Street, for Sylvia Plath”
oil painting by Fleta Monaghan

You can’t manufacture a “voice” and what that voice says changes just like we always are changing. It’s like that saying, “The only constant is change.” After all the tenacious work filled with joyfulness, the hunger and curiosity, there needs to be trust in the creative process and your engagement in it as a lifestyle and life’s work. A key turning point might not be your “best work” either, from the critics’ standpoint, but a detour off a planned path.





There is 1 comment for The constancy of change by Fleta Monaghan

From: Anonymous — Jul 28, 2010

You nailed it Fleta,,,a detour off a planned path….so right you are.





Finding your visual voice
by Dakota Mitchell


This subject hits at my very core. In fact, it is so critical to fresh artistic expression that I wrote a book about it. After years of fine art education, workshops, and reading art instruction books, I became very frustrated with others trying to tell me the “right way to paint.” Finally, I got so irritated that I felt the need to identify what the actual key points were and how they can apply to the wide range of artistic approaches. To me the first step is to discover your source of inspiration (are you an external or internal artist?) and then identify what you personally respond to in subject matter, art elements, composition and painting process. This is when the heart begins to truly soar. There are images by 30 plus artists and application exercises included in the book that give ample opportunity for the reader to explore his or her interests. The name of the book is Finding Your Visual Voice written by Dakota Mitchell and Lee Haroun and is published by Northlight Publishing. It can be found on Amazon.com or ordered through local bookstores.

(RG note) Thanks, Dakota. The reader reviews on Amazon are uniformly praiseful. We’ve ordered a copy.

There are 4 comments for Finding your visual voice by Dakota Mitchell

From: Faith — Jul 27, 2010

The book did not seem to be available at amazon.com, but it could be ordered at amazon.de (the German site).

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jul 27, 2010

The hardback is not available, but the spiral-bound is. Also consider taking a look at used.

From: Dakota Mitchell — Jul 27, 2010
From: Anonymous — Jul 28, 2010

Dakota…I just LOVE your book…I have read it THREE times. This is one of the best art books out there! Bravo for writing it and I have gotten so many friends to buy it. Thank you for writing it.





Finding her voice in the present moment
by Abbie Williams, Nobleboro, ME, USA


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“Morn’n moon”
original painting by Abbie Williams

After almost 40 years of painting I am still chasing my “voice.” I’ve come to the conclusion that finding one’s voice is like chasing the Holy Grail. It’s illusive at best. Hopefully we as people are always growing and changing therefore our voice is always growing and changing. What if the way and what we are painting at any given time is our true voice? Wouldn’t knowing that to be true help us to feel the joy of expressing ourselves in painting at any time in our lives?

There are 3 comments for Finding her voice in the present moment by Abbie Williams

From: Anonymous — Jul 27, 2010

lovely painting

From: Mary Bullock — Jul 27, 2010

Love your painting!!

From: Kathi Peters — Jul 28, 2010

Abbie,I love how your ‘voice’ has changed over the years. Your new work is brilliant. kp





No one can explain it
by Lynda Davison, Covington, TN, USA


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“Oriental lillies”
original painting by Lynda Davison

In my head I want to be an Impressionist, but when I paint, it just won’t happen. It’s as if my brush and the canvas demand realism and detail so I try to reach some kind of compromise. I am attracted to the art of people like Ann Hardy and Elizabeth Pruitt and this is what I want to come out of my brush. But my “voice” takes over and I find myself adding much more detail. There is simply no way to deny one’s voice when it comes to producing art. It takes you over and this is why we have so many different artist’s interpretations and styles. No one can fully explain why we each do it our way but that inner voice shows up in our bodies of work. It becomes our own way of seeing things and putting them on canvas for others. The art itself reflects our own inner voice, and sometimes it surprises even the artist. And isn’t that what art is all about?

There are 4 comments for No one can explain it by Lynda Davison

From: Cleo — Jul 27, 2010

Hi Lynda, From one detail orientated painter to another my story is similar to yours but I found it VERY interesting when watching one of Morgan Weistling’s DVDs that he said he used to paint photo realism but chose to start eliminating/editing unnecessary detail/values etc from his work and is conitnually assessing and simplifying, he finds it more challenging than putting everything into the painting and this approach takes him just as long to do and from his perspective, he finds it more difficult. Maybe our inner voices evolve over time, just like our tastes in art, music, food etc etc. For me personally, my inner voice is held more within my subject matter rather than my style. My style evolves/changes as my technique improves.

From: Jim Oberst — Jul 27, 2010

The vast majority of artists that I know (including myself) want to paint “looser” – and just can’t seem to do it!

From: Sarah — Jul 28, 2010

Ditto to the above comments. I’m beginning to think that my natural “voice” is to be representational, even if it’s more “with it” to paint impressionistically.

From: gail caduff-nash — Aug 10, 2010

while i haven’t seen your portfolio, just looking at the lily painting tells me you are an impressionist – this is NOT a realistic painting. and BTW, i really like it. i think it’s full of interest and mystery. so i don’t think you need concern yourself – and maybe your kind of impressionism is demanding that we look at the details. look at pointelists – they painted with DOTS!! you have a strong style –





Frozen by fear
by Gail Hersey, Weare, NH, USA


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“Farm Days”
original painting
by Gail Hersey

I have often felt awkward in social situations. Sit me down with a cup of tea or a glass of wine with a friend or a small group and I’m happy, comfortable, at ease. Put me in a room full of strangers at a party and all of a sudden I feel that prickle of fear run up the back of my neck. My eyes focus on items around the room or on my feet so that I don’t accidentally meet someone’s eyes and have to think of something to say. I fear that I won’t know how to start a conversation or how to keep one going. I fear that I will have nothing of value to say and no one will want to talk to me. I fear that I won’t be able to retrieve the words that I need when I need them.

Of course, only that last fear has any basis in reality. I do have trouble remembering names and often I have to describe the concept I’m trying to talk about rather than use the word created for it. It’s stored in my brain somewhere — it’s just that the card catalog doesn’t work all that well on demand. The rest of it, the fear of talking to strangers is just fear.

So — what’s the plan? I don’t want to live with this anymore. I want to be free to feel comfortable with new people and in groups.

The solution is to change my attitude. I want to take my fear and turn it into curiosity. Rather than dreading the beginning of a conversation with someone that I don’t know, I want to wonder who that person is, what are they interested in, what makes them uniquely them. Honestly, all this talk about the weather is boring. I want to know what makes people tick (or tok, or jump for joy) — I’ve just been too afraid to ask.

The same idea can be applied to my art and how I approach working. Do I walk into the studio nervous that I might not be able to work today or that what I do may not be any good? Do I walk into the studio with the expectation that it will be a great day and that I can do no wrong? Or, do I walk into the studio with an attitude of curiosity? Do I wonder — what will happen today? How do I feel? What does it look like when I try this color, this shape? No expectations; only curiosity and attention.

By using my curiosity in the studio, I allow myself to play with my ideas. I can try new combinations and techniques without giving that little homunculus named Critic the power over my day. I can float on the joy and power I have when I walk through the door feeling fabulous without the disappointment at the end of the day if it doesn’t go well. By paying attention to myself, I can use my curiosity to see how I am feeling. I can acknowledge that I am excited or bored or that I just need a glass of water.

I can take my fear and expectation and turn it around into wondering and inspiration. What a way to start the day! What a way to meet new people! And you know, if I forget a name, I can always ask…

There are 6 comments for Frozen by fear by Gail Hersey

From: Stephanie Vagvolgyi — Jul 26, 2010

A good philosophy, Gail. Thanks for sharing it.

From: Doreen Flanagan — Jul 26, 2010

Hi Gail. Reading yiur letter made me think of the site www.eftuniverse.com. EFT stands for emotional Freedom Therapy and there are some very good videos by people who have been greatly helped by this therapy. With love and blessings.

From: Sandy Donn — Jul 27, 2010

It’s all choice, isn’t it? A good friend once said “Fear is a thief, it robs you.” That simple statement is so powerful and it has helped me so many times. You’re welcome to it!

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jul 27, 2010

What a wonderful way to describe this. I find myself also at times obstructed by fear as I seek to create, and do not understand the origin of it. I had not thought that it is curiousity that draws me back in and holds me there, but as soon as I read what you wrote, I recognized it. Unlike you, I don’t suffer this with people, and again, I recognize that it is because I am a naturally curious person. Your sharing has given me a tool I needed: a way of recognizing the source of my fear, and consciously turning it into curiousity to free myself for the journey I am on. Thank you.

From: shy — Jul 27, 2010

Hi Gail, One of the life changing experiences for me was reading Dale Carnegie’s literature. The thing that has forever liberated me in social situations is this claim – everyone is listening to only one “rado station” – WIIFM, or “what’s in it for me”. Most people come to parties with thoughts of themselves – trying to look nice and say smart things. Nobody whatsoever is thinking about you. Dale Carnegie recommends to actually focus on remembering people’s names (he offers a system for that), and saying their names aloud a few times…that’s the “sweetest music” to everyone’s ear. If you say anything meaningles, just starting the sentence with their name, they will have a pleasant memory of you. It’s that easy. We don’t need to say anything at all about ourselves – nobody is interested. I am now a free social person! I know that this is very superficial, but that’s what parties are – you don’t go there to have a heart to heart with your most intimate friends – just have fun and enjoy the wine!

From: Anonymous — Jul 28, 2010

To Shy….you nailed it!! I could not have said it better!! I have to go to soooo many parties and engagements and hand shaking events due to my husband´s job…they are soooo boring but when I finally realized that everyone is just there because they also have to be there and stopped agonizing over what I was going to say to wear…and just live the moment…cruise the room,,,make eye contact….smile and talk ,,,make contacts address them with their name..it all got so much more enjoyable and I can finally stand such events. No one could care less what I wear,,it is all so superficial and once I accepted that fact it was no longer a chore or boring…..plus my husband has lightened up too ::)





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You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Leslie Tejada of Corvallis, Oregon, USA, who wrote, “A better question is “What do I want to see?” This bypasses more of the mind which wants to work in terms of ideas, and which holds all sorts of worries about who we are, what shall I paint, etc. It’s a direct entry into the part of the mind which works spontaneously and intuitively, solely in visual terms. Being attuned to spontaneously paint what we most love, and want to see, in pure visual elements could also beautifully inform representational work.”

And also Barbara Walter of New York, USA, who wrote, “I found I was gravitating toward a certain style and subject matter after trying out different subjects and mediums. I liked doing it all, but found I enjoy painting local scenes the best for now. The lesson for me was not to give up — inspiration will come.”

And also Marianthe Pastore of Sarasota, FL,USA, who wrote, “New friends who come to my home think I collect other artists’ work, and are surprised to learn that all the paintings are mine. I have struggled for years with this problem and finally have given up.”

And also Paul deMarrais of TN, USA, who wrote, “Making art is like falling in love. Thinking about your voice will likely produce contrived political painting of some sort. Painting has to come from your heart, not from yet another symposium.”



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Finding your voice

   
From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Jul 23, 2010

What a timely letter this was for me! I have been struggling with what is my voice. What do I really want to paint and how do I want to present it? Being in galleries and competitions is great, but it does something to the artist. Sometimes we are no longer just painting for the fun of discovery as you mention above. The last week or two I have been doing just that. Seeing what comes out. I believe the way you presented it above is just the right answer. Just do something without knowing the outcome. Be ready for what the painting is telling me to do. This is what I am trying to do these days. I know I love the landscape and nature, but what is it I want to give? Complexity or simplicity? So many artists are bombarded by “keep it simple.” When I look at nature, I am drawn to the more complicated scene many times. Then again when I look at art, I am drawn to the simple scenes. How do you meld the two likes? Paint a complicated scene and try to simplify it? Very difficult indeed. I’ve been told to blindfold myself and see what comes out. Heck I might miss the canvas. Thank you for discussing the question of voice. Very relevant for me.

From: Darla — Jul 23, 2010

After all these years, my painting seems to be sorting itself into thematic series. I didn’t set out to do it that way; just noticed that the last paintings seem to be like a series of books on 3 or 4 different themes. I guess it has to do with what’s lurking in the back of your brain. My technique hasn’t radically changed; maybe when you get older you’re less concerned about what other people think of you and more confident in yourself. That’s one of the few things about aging that gets easier! The aches and wrinkles I could do without.

From: Lis Allison — Jul 23, 2010

One thing I think is very important which you didn’t mention specifically is Courage. I think one needs courage in order to find one’s voice. Without it, it’s too easy to sound like someone else, or to give up. And sometimes you need courage to keep going in spite of the fact that you know you are not speaking in your own voice yet.

From: Pat Stanley — Jul 23, 2010

I have been discovering my voice over the past year or so, and have learned something important – when you speak in a generic voice, many people can understand you. Once you find your own voice, you may very well lose much of your original audience, who no longer are able (or want) to hear you. But I believe that being true to your voice is more important than giving people what they want (or are able to) hear.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jul 23, 2010

Pat, I agree with you. I found that I was allowing myself to be too much influenced by what was in the galleries I am in or aspire too. By and large, not the kind of stuff that inspires me, but does sell to the tourist trade. Our area has not yet cottoned to the fact that they need to find ways to connect with collecters if they want to sell anything but appealing landscapes and carriable crafts. I decided to take a year and study painting. For me, that involves not so much trying to find a voice, but letting myself explore until what I am doing FEELS right. The more I paint, the further away I get from what is usual in these parts, and the closer I get to something I was just achieving as a younger painter. So maybe, given my age as a re-emerging artist, I won’t appeal to the market available to me. Or, maybe, as I come to better express what is in me, I will. It doesn’t matter much to me right now. Maybe next year it will, but I’ll wait to find out.

From: Ansgard Thomson — Jul 23, 2010

What a waste of time to discuss “Finding a voice” as a visual artist . As we learn to understand what attracts our vision our art has to speak for itself. The curious mind of an artist will always explore a new image as an adventure. The trend to claim an artist must have a voice is misleading. True, artists might need “a voice” in the political arena to function as a group.

From: Bob Brendle — Jul 23, 2010

Your artistic voice is what your work speaks to you…sometimes it’s okay to let others listen in.

From: Kris Preslan — Jul 23, 2010

Yes, and there’s the voice that makes you strive for “one better” each time you paint. Who said, “For a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

From: Roberta Rivett — Jul 23, 2010

Understanding creativity – what it is, how it operates – is a subject fascinating to me. I am not a visual artist but my passion in my retirement is to make the words and deeds of my forebears accessible to my grandchildren. I produce family books. I don’t call it writing, because if is more finding, assembling and editing. Now I have a term for the creative element of what I do, long denied by myself as being creative. It is – finding my voice.

From: Mary Lapos — Jul 23, 2010

The very day I needed this it showed up. You are a treasure. As the great guru Satchidananda says, “Truth is one, Paths are many.” Enjoy your island!

From: Alan Soffer — Jul 23, 2010

I think that just hoping something essential will develop in your work is a low percentage possibility, though it could happen. I like to get my students working on this from the beginning. Putting one’s thoughts, interests, values to paper, as you do twice a week is very predictable. Probably sooner than later, your train will come in. The issues you are passionate about will emerge and then you will have a compass to locate a way of advancing those passions. In your case it sounds like the writing has nearly overtaken the image making. No matter, you have found your bliss, or at least, a part of it.

From: Helen Horn Musser — Jul 23, 2010

Once again you have told us many things we may not have discovered for ourselves. Your thoughts on voice are very interesting and ring true. As I recall my earlier days to paint I see myself as not having a clue about how to say anything with the work. As you have said, we gather our ideas and ideals during the journey. I just wish we did not have to age so fast in order to find our inner voice and learn our craft. Many thanks for putting these parts of the puzzle together. I agree our humanness can never be searched enough for us to see the complete picture.

From: Chris Cullen — Jul 23, 2010

“6 up” Drinking my tea when I read that. I like how you pop these unexpected laughs in. Please keep writing. Your letter fits in with my study of The Law of Attraction, that may have been around awhile but I just found it. I paint in watercolors and I appreciate motivators for the colors of my world.

From: Diana Wakely — Jul 23, 2010

My problem has always been that what ever medium I work in each one has it’s own style. I have not achieved my ‘own voice’. Where I have found it is in teaching. I enjoy teaching children. To take them from those rough sketches of weird faces and oblong trees to a drawing or painting that they can be proud of. Because I have different techniques in all mediums they are not tied down to ‘my style’. So my voice is my students who hopefully will take art into adulthood with passion. Renfrew, Ontario

From: David White — Jul 23, 2010
From: Stephanie Bridges-Bledsoe — Jul 23, 2010

Being a singer as well as one struggling to find my voice with a pencil, I was doubly intrigued by the title of this letter. I’ve long been flummoxed by what makes my work individual, and therefore worth doing, much less worth making an official statement about. There are plenty who seem to have found their voices and are doing work that is, if not unique in technique, then certainly unique in style, subject or the presentation of that subject. They just do some little extra thing that makes the viewer stop and say, “Woah… what’s this?” Good art does more than copy from life (or imagination); it enhances the subject, makes it more than the sum of its parts. It has life of its own. So how do I “speak” in a way that’s not just a copy (musically or on paper with graphite)? I suppose the answer lies in the doing, as you suggest, and just listening. Over time, it’s sure to become apparent, probably after I’ve stopped listening for it, as though it was there all the time.

From: uraniv@verizon.net — Jul 23, 2010

Most of my artist friends concerns and topics of conversation center around shows and sales. That is why your words are so valuable to me and I’m grateful that somehow I found you.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jul 23, 2010

This was beautiful. You, after all those years asking yourself these questions is the most inspiring thing. The powerful, brave, loving, and humble ego-force is what gives me my voice. Fear and doubt are its enemies. That may not make sense to many people, but I think it does to you.

From: Teresa Chow — Jul 23, 2010

This article resonates deeply with me as I’m still trying to find my voice. I dare not label myself as an artist as there are an abundance of talents out there. Furthermore, I haven’t been trained by Rembrandt for 12 years before I’m allowed to even apply paint on the canvas. Voice can also mean singing. I have been in a school choir since the age of 5 till 16. I still remember the discipline that was instilled in us, the stamina, the poise, the technique to project your voice, how to carry the melody plus facial expression to connect with your audience. Don’t they sound familiar with visual artists too? The tools (paint and brush) are constant. But the discipline has to be there, the technique has to be learned, the creativity process in the interpretation of what we capture visually has to connect with our viewers.

From: Teddy Pruett — Jul 23, 2010

If, by “voice” you mean “style,” I don’t think you can determine a style ahead of time. It happens in hindsight. I work in fiber, and was so envious of artists who had a “style” that was recognizable. I wondered how they accomplished that, as I wanted to have a style, too. I never found one – at least, not until looking at an exhibit of my own work. I was stunned – bedammed if I didn’t have a style. I just never knew it until after the fact.

From: cassandra — Jul 23, 2010

Kris … It was Robert Browning said that. I have lately learned to use google to type in well known lines when I can’t recall the author … (too often these days) … it finds the famous poets etc. instantly. Ain’t hi tech wonderful. As an old English major I am fond of attributing quotes where possible for the same reasons artists sign their work.

From: Louise — Jul 24, 2010

The loss of galleries may permit us to return to our lost voice.

From: Haim Mizrahi — Jul 24, 2010

The power of vision will open the necessary doors for us. Finding your voice is like looking for a third arm to do the work for us. let your audience be the judge if it is a good thing or bad.

From: Liz Reday — Jul 24, 2010

I tried on a few voices the way one would try on clothes. Some were flattering/comfortable, some voices elicited enthusiastic responses, or looks of puzzled confusion; The sound of my voice is sweet in the moment, then yearning, insistent, contrived, overworked, agitated, peacefully boring, all wrong, just right… – later on, my throat aching, ears burning, I replay the tape and hear only silence. I learned that voices are not found by planning but could be heard singing softly in the next room when least expected. Abandoning the search and taking pleasure in exploration, dancing in the studio, using any art supplies regardless of age or state of mind, painting an idea, painting anyway, it adds up over the years, mistakes and miss-takes. I discovered I can’t sing or draw a stick figure, but I never let that stop me! I’m in love with acrylics all over again, says my voice. South Pasadena

From: Linda C Dumas — Jul 24, 2010

Whoops! Am I Terry Fator?

From: Barbara Meilkle — Jul 24, 2010

It seems like my voice is constantly changing; whether it is getting higher or lower, I’m not sure. What I do know is the hours in the studio, absorbed not in looking at other work, or learning from other people, but focusing on my own mental notes about painting, and how I want my paintings to look, are what is shaping that voice. I cannot see the difference from day to day, but certainly from year to year, I’ve unknowingly carved out a new path out of my old way of seeing.

From: Shirley Fachilla — Jul 24, 2010

It’s so easy to confuse voice with agenda. I think many artists make that miscalculation. A cause may be good to have, but trying to send its message can drown out your true one. Unlike a cause or an agenda, I think an artist’s real message is almost impossible to define with words. But when one’s painting begins to dictate what should be done next and how it should be painted, then perhaps it’s your voice speaking and you should listen. Nashville, TN

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 26, 2010

Communication through visual arts is not an exact science because the viewer may misinterpret what the artist is trying to convey. We have no control over the observer’s experience, only our personal intent. I can paint a piece to shout my opinion or I can simply paint a scene that pleases me. Funny thing about conversation: sometimes we contribute a comment or two, other times we listen. Sometimes we find others listening carefully to us. A few times our voice must be raised to be heard above the din of noise. With all that, conversation is a group enterprise. My voice is in writing and not necessarily in my painting – there are too many variables, whereas I can communicate clearly with the written word. Not every painting needs to “voice” anything.

From: Catherine McLay, Cochrane, Alberta — Jul 26, 2010

In literature, “voice” means the distinctive style of the author or the narrator, he or she telling the story. We can recognize immediately a Jane Austen, an Ernest Hemingway or Garrison Keillor. Transferred to art, I understand it to mean the distinctive style of the artist, which carries across subject matter and media. It may have to do with choice of colours, brush work or any other elements of design or execution. It is the family resemblance of the overall works. The artist may, of course, change his/her voice at any time.

From: Jackie Lee, Sonoma, CA — Jul 27, 2010

I have learned so much from reading these letters, and I am encouraged to add my two cents. When I first began painting I would have a preconceived notion of what I wanted it to look like, I even had drawings ready. As the painting progressed it mysteriously changed from the original plan. This continues with every painting. It’s not my voice that’s doing that … it’s the voice of our Source, the creator of every wonder around us, seeping into our brains, ready to access magically when the time is right. Others may find their voices through lessons and practice – I find mine just by listening to someone else’s and recognizing it as the gift it is. And being thankful every day.

From: Olivia Hodorowski — Jul 27, 2010

I wanted to suggest something to Gail Hersey and her fear. Please check my website www.innerfreedomoutwardsuccess.com. While you don’t really rid yourself of fear, we help you clear away the emotional blockages that keep you from going forward and thus fear isn’t as big a thing because now you have new confidence. It’s amazing and all the work can be done at a distance. Thank you for allowing me to make this offering and to all the terrific art and comments I get to experience through this wonderful newsletter.

From: Anatholie Alain — Aug 01, 2010

Always find the comments from your readers so helpful. For three months of the year, my ‘force’ seems to be in the Atlantic coast when I am on holidays. Being near the ocean seems to open the ‘floodgates’ and on any given day, I seem able to ‘jump’ in and do things that seem impossible the rest of the year. I’ve tried to bring back the ‘magic’ , but it seems, ocean, sand, boats, lobster succeed in unlocking those barriers. ‘Fear’ seems to dissappear! No doubt others have similar experiences, but I found it important to share mine.

   
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