Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Finding my Artist's Voice - Chapter 1: Look at Art

I thought it was about time to write something on this - and yes, I think this marks the official move of this blog back to being an 'Art' blog.  Watch for an update soon to the look of this blog - just as soon as I can get everything edited and uploaded. 
(c) Beth Cavener Stichter -

The writing of this post is spurred by my recent amazing news - I won the Bronze award in the Open category at this year's ISSA annual art show for 'A Dog Named DaVinci'!  I am completely thrilled with this, for a couple of reasons; it's awesome to win and the prize money will go to very good use, but secondly (and perhaps more importantly) this is a huge vote of confidence for me at a time when I really needed one and intimately associated with the topic of this post.

I didn't write much about it at the time, but last winter I went through a major artist crisis.  Since art isn't my primary job I think I downplayed it, even to myself, but seeing how much better I feel having it resolved (or at least on the road to resolution) I think that it was more important than I admitted at the time.

(c) Lindee Climo -
Last fall I found myself finally getting settled, making some forays into the local art scene, going to art shows to see what was out there, taking some classes and devoting more time to working on my own art.  That's great right?  

Except that after several months of doing more applied art I found that I had started numerous pieces and not only had I not finished anything, I had so many different genres, subjects, and even media on the go that I realized I was well and truly kermitting.  I would look at DeviantArt and each day come up with a different direction I could go with my work, but I only have so many years in this life (and only so much of that which I can devote to art) which direction to choose? I wanted to find my direction, my "Artist Voice".  

I did lots of web surfing and reading of blogs and articles on how to find your Voice.  Even as I did so I knew that words on a page were not going to help me - the Voice is such a right-brained sort of thing, it can't be fully analyzed, it can't be given to you, it can't be taught.  It's truly one of those personal quest things that you must set out on a Hero's Journey to find.  

In the next several posts I'm going to summarize what I did on my Quest and put it here for any other artist out there who might be trying to claw through their own intellectual thicket on this subject (individual results may vary):

Chapter 1: LOOK AT ART

(c) Georg Williams -
We do this all the time - but in this instance what I did was to go to galleries, browse DeviantArt, I spent an afternoon tromping around the AGO and surrounding smaller venues with a specific intent and purpose.  I took pictures of everything that grabbed me on a visceral level.  I paid attention to what I was attracted to and why - as if I'd never been to an art gallery before.  I made a list of all the artists who's work I've really admired over the years, I bookmarked their websites and looked at their collections.  I did all of this with a mindful question in my head, 'What about this work attracts me?'

I did this because I find that as time passes we can come to have have an idea in our heads of what we like and don't like, what style we 'do' (or absolutely don't do)... in essence, we can tend to stagnate.  "I do realistic pet portraits on scratchboard and sometimes with pastel"... that concept started somewhere, but then became the definition, and then became restrictive.  I was unconsciously looking at the phrase that represented what I do rather than the whole of the process that had brought me there... "Why do I do realistic pet portraits?" was maybe a better question... and the answer to that question would be the key.

(c) Ezra Tucker -
Taking a completely uncensored look at a wide variety of art made me realize quickly that I could divide my attractions into two types; I liked some things simply because they were pleasing to me, I liked to look at them though I had zero desire to create anything like that (but would love to have it on my wall).   The other attraction, however, was characterized by a tugging of 'I want to try that'... sometimes I didn't even like the final piece (in a put-it-on-my-wall sort of way), but something about the light or colour or style caught my eye, some element or way that the elements worked together attracted me. 

These in the second group are the ones I photographed, and I tell you - it was an eclectic mix of things that do not resemble in the least the work that I do.  I went back and looked through them though, and again asked myself 'What about this work attracts me?'  and when I looked at the entire group of artists and work - some patterns started to emerge.

(c) Darren Waterston -
Why do I find Ezra Tucker's paintings so fascinating? My favorites of his work are the ones that are deliberately not 'finished', you can see the hand of the artist in them, they marry the incredible detail of a painting with the flow of a sketch.  Why do Beth Cavener Stichter's sculptures capivate me so?  It's the emotion that comes through in them so strongly that web images of her work disturb my husband (even if I could afford one I can say that, sadly, there will never be one of her works in my home).  How do Georg Williams' portraits fit in?  The heart of caricature is capturing personality, and that's something I want to do as much or more as making a good visual representation.  Why has Lindee Climo's work stuck with me since I met her when I was in the seventh grade?  I've always liked Caravaggio... when reviewing her website I found "Pogo as the Youthful Bacchus" shown earlier in this post. 

A side effect of this activity is that it awakened something - it sounds entirely too flowery to say that my passion was rekindled... but that does come pretty close.  I had new ideas, places where I wanted my art to go.  The Left Brain was knocked off balance long enough for me to stop thinking and to feel where I wanted to go with my art.  I like motion, I like colour, I like chiaroscuro and drama, I like true detail - not just the illusion of detail, I like sharpness and contrast - but only a bit of it, I like variety within the piece,  I like larger works, I like the freedom of the sketch but also the detail of hyper-realism, I like the personality of caricature.

I now had a destination, just no idea how to get there....

(To Be Continued....)

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