Finding Our Creative Voice – Somerset Studios January/February 2015

Many of us begin our creative journey with trepidation and uncertainty. We think other people are creative but harshly judge our abilities. Slowly we begin to get our sea legs although we know we haven’t quite found our unique artistic voice. Our creative exploration is a continually unfolding journey. We walk an enticing labyrinth of learning, experimenting and flexing our artistic muscles.

And we walk the same paths as the masters. We begin as apprentices, take classes from artists we admire and emulate their work. And then if we are bold, if we dare to play, dare to make mistakes, dare to make “bad” art, we immerge from the shadows of other artists. With practice and perseverance, our unique style emerges.

The more we “move our hands”, as my dear artist friend Lynn Whipple says, the more we learn to trust the creative process. The less we judge the outcome of our work, the more feel the internal flow of creative energy. And once we enter the infinite wellspring creative possibilities, instead of us “doing” art, it’s as though art “does” us.

Before the internet, and especially before Facebook, the path to find our unique artistic voice was a solitary walk for many of us. Although I’ve made my living as an artist for thirty years, up until two years ago I hadn’t taken an art class since high school. That changed when on a whim I signed up to go to Brave Girls Camp which nurtured my soul at a difficult time in my life. I’ve had the pleasure of hosting and taking Tracy Verdugo’s class and most recently I’ve had the joy of taking classes from Lynn Whipple and also co-teaching with her. This series was created after taking her first online class.

We now have instant access to countless quality online mixed media classes, YouTube tutorials, informative blogs and the richness of so many Stampington publications. There is also tremendous peer support with the Facebook groups teachers create to accompany their classes. It is a joy to immerse ourselves in learning how to use so many of the products the mixed media world has to offer. And it’s great to dive into new techniques to enrich our work.

When learning new techniques, I strive to make my art unique. There are so many ways we can give our art our distinctive hallmark. Designing paper for mixed media project is a breeze with Gelli printing. We can sketch designs for a personal stamp line and have them produced inexpensively. We can also doodle the alphabet and make our own word stamps. Utilizing cardboard in our designs opens endless possibilities. It can be cut into wing shapes, used as a border, a roof for a house, or as a frame like I used in this body of work.

My favorite method of making my signature work is to incorporate photographs I’ve taken. The beautiful model in this series is a sweet friend, and the camera loves her. It’s fun to do photo shoots with all kinds of props and then to make up sayings for each piece of art that resonates with the photo. Flowers, trees, birds, the beach, and statutes all make great subjects to photograph and then personalize artwork.

There is no greater time to be on the creative journey. And we don’t need tons of supplies to experiment with new art forms and make art that is uniquely our own. What we do need is patience and an attitude of curiosity and enthusiasm. We need to withhold judgment and become flexible and spontaneous in our exploration. Practice wild abandon…get messy…lighten up and take chances.

As we grow as an artist, we grow as a person. The same qualities that lead us to our authentic artistic voice are the same qualities that grow a happy life. It’s unmistakable when we find our creative voice. We feel it in our bones. The world doesn’t need another Van Gosh or Matisse. The world needs the gift of our creative expression.

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