Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Theme: Journey of Self-Discovery

Hi there Pocketeers.  This is going to be a long one.  I'm going to share with you something that I've been thinking a lot about lately, with a few visual aids.  Instead of being a normal Thursday Theme post where all the art shown has something noticeable in common, this is going to be the first of three posts on a progressive sort of theme.  These three posts are going to be about my search for my own distinctive signature style.  I'm sharing this partly to get my own thoughts organized and have some accountability for the process, but mostly to show any of you who are going through the same process what I'm going through in mine, in the hopes that it might be of some help.

It's been a little over a year since I started thinking about what might define my art and make it recognizable as mine.  It started because I heard some things about some artists, and was taking classes a lot, and started to feel like I was just copying others' styles.  So over the past year, I've been sort of stumbling around what I've learned and what I'm still learning and what I have figured out myself and what I can combine.  I think I'm forging a path but I'm never quite sure how much progress I'm making. 

Recently, my friend RunningWave gave me a gift, a deck of tarot cards that a friend of hers designed and had published.  Tarot is something that has always fascinated me but, since I believed it was just for divination and I don't want my future told, I shied away from actually using the cards.  I've always liked the artwork, though, and uses of them in stories.  Well, I have since learned that tarot can be used as a prompt for your own intuition and consideration of an issue, so I decided to use my new cards to get my mind working on where my art is headed.  I did a simple three-card layout that is supposed to refer to past, present, and possible future.  What I drew were the Hierophant, the Seven of Swords, and the Emperor.  So that gave me a lot to think about, once I looked up what those cards mean.  Here's my ruminations on the first, the Hierophant, supposed to be connected to my past or where I'm coming from.

The Hierophant represents organized beliefs, spiritual authority, or traditional education.  It can also represent norms and standards, but what I picked up on the most was the suggestion of authority and education.  For a long time, ever since I picked up mixed media and paper art, I've followed the influence and styles of the artists I liked and took lessons from.  Way back in 2009, I was taking Tim Holtz classes and learning from tutorials and videos on his website and blog.  And, by following in his footsteps, I was producing stuff like this:

That's not bad, but all the elements are still quite recognizable, and even the style in which they're put together says, to me, Tim. 

Since a little while before then, I was stalking faithfully following Michelle Ward and her street team blog.  Her style is very different from Tim's, and it's very rock and roll, with a helping of medieval sauce here and there, and if you know anything about me you know that speaks directly to my heart and soul.  So, naturally, slavish devotion.  Thanks to Michelle, I started playing with stencils, carving the occasional stamp, and trying to do things with paint.  I had little success, and couldn't get into a groove with any of the techniques until I finally took classes with her last year.  As soon as I came home, I did this:

That is as close to a Michelle Ward rip off as I've ever gotten.  And I do love it, but it felt a little too much like copying.  Which just seems wrong when the artist I was ripping off always encourages people to "Make It Your Own."  Hence the start of this journey. 

So that "past" tarot card, the Hierophant, with its suggestion of authority and teaching and traditionalism seemed to be pointing to exactly what I was trying to push off from quite accurately.  But as I've thought about it more, a couple of other things came to the surface.  Things I have to overcome in my head before my hands can really be free to just MAKE stuff. 

First is an idea that there is traditional art like I used to do (sketching and realism), and there is mixed media art with all its abstractness and patterns and textures and assemblage-y thingamabobs, and never the twain shall meet.  The idea that I have to be in a different mindset for each task, and set aside different times for each one, which is why even though I tried to return to drawing last year, I didn't do much with it.  Later posts will address the progress I think I've made there.

The other is something that, again, relates directly to teachers.  My late friend and high school art teacher, who I was privileged to be allowed to call "Aunt Linda," was encouraging and helpful and really liked my art.  There was one criticism, however, that I found somewhat crushing, and I don't think she ever knew that it had bothered me and it still nags at me.  On an early assignment in Art I, I had done a poor job of placing the elements we were supposed to draw on the page.  She indicated this to me by telling me that I didn't have a very good eye for composition.  I'm pretty sure that's the only time she ever gave me a critique that wasn't constructive.  Even now, working on collages or assemblages, it's always in the back of my mind that I have no eye for composition and therefore don't really have a good sense of where to place things so they harmonize and look good.  And I'm pretty sure that "poor composition" is not a style.  So that is something else to consider while working through this process.  Do I try to let go of the criticism and forge ahead, relying on my intuition and lots of trial and error?  Or do I try to find a way to learn better compositional principles somehow?

Well, that's a lot of words, mostly about me.  I hope I haven't bored you too much.  Tell me, are you working on finding or re-discovering your artistic groove?  Do you have ruts or criticisms or insecurities that you need to find your way out of?  Has a criticism ever gotten under your skin and stuck with you?  Please comment, I'd love for this to be a conversation.

And next week... the current state of things, represented by the Seven of Swords.

1 comment:

Maryanne said...

Finding your artistic voice is not an easy path, at least not for me, as you may know. And, comments can stick with you forever unless you can find a way to overcome them. Another thing I can't do. I feel the same way you do about copying other artists, but I think that's something most people deal with. I'll be interested to see where your journey takes you.