I am going to say that authentic work is work that comes from you, the artist, honestly. The images are not imitating other artists, they are not coming from a place of people-pleasing or trying to anticipate what the market will favor. It sounds simple, right?
How do you peel away the layers of influences that are inevitable and necessary, to find what is uniquely you, or what is true for you? Voices in our heads can include:
- Any rules we were taught about what makes good design or composition
- Our Inner Critics who voice our self-doubt and give it more importance than it deserves
- Anxiety over what will sell or what will be accepted in a show or a gallery
- Opinions of others whom we listen to - a spouse or friend or colleague
|Working in a sketchbook, playing, experimenting|
How do we learn about composition and still maintain the freedom to develop our own unique way of expression? How do we put aside the Inner Critic or the gallery submission and just get down to work? How do we take criticism (positive or negative) from those we care about, without giving it more weight than it deserves?
|Trying out some pinks and reds|
We look to other artists for inspiration. This is an important (to me) part of being an artist - be inspired, learn from others. But how do we keep from imitating artists we admire? How do we avoid making paintings of paintings instead of just making paintings?
|Collage and Crayons|
I don't have answers; just raising the question. The sketchbook pages here show some visual inquiries, and I wonder if working in a sketchbook more often helps to develop the honesty, the authenticity.
I would love to get your thoughts on these questions. Please comment; I have to 'moderate' because otherwise I get a lot of bot-generated spam. But I do look at comments and publish them every day. THANKS.
I reckon you should 'play' most of the time...until real inspiration comes. Then you are ready to begin.ReplyDelete
I'm not a professional artist but I love to paint and do mixed media as well. The questions you raised are usually in my mind when I create, and it makes it very hard to just be myself. It does help me though to know I'm not the only one who feels these things!ReplyDelete
I will often use other artists for inspiration, but that doesn't necessarily mean my art journal looks like their work. I think because I have been at this for 10 years, my own touches have come to play. I have reached the stage of asking myself, "what if...", then doing it.ReplyDelete
How about just doing what pleases you. It certainly could be play as Jo mentioned. But perhaps doing what is pleasing to us isn't always play but a way forward into place we haven't been before.ReplyDelete
"...places I haven't been before", I love that possibility, and will bring it along when I'm in the studio. Thank you!Delete
I will venture to say that whether one follows other artists or is inspired by looking at their work, showing up and working consistently on one's art will inevitably bring one closer to one's own voice. I think this is easier said than done as I am experiencing just that and asking myself "who am I as an artist?". I first wanted to be like you and other established artists out there, but when I attempt my version of it that inner critic (is this good enough?) shows up and makes me pause and not getting on with the doing. In an attempt to center myself, I'm limiting my time on social media to try to tap on my art (but that's slow too)Delete
I will venture to say that whether we follow other artists or are inspired by looking at their work, showing up and working consistently on our art will inevitably bring us closer to our own voice. But - I think this is easier said than done as I am currently experiencing. I often go through periods where I look at Instagram too much looking for inspiration when I should be working. I try to incorporate things that speak to me or inspire me to create, and so I think "wow! that's so interesting! why didn't I think of that?" and I'm in love with the work others share. But when I attempt my version of it that inner critic (is this good enough? is it really that interesting? this looks so silly!) shows up and makes me pause and not get on with the doing part. I think I spend so much time looking outside of me that I stop tapping inside. In an attempt to center myself, I'm limiting my time on social media to try to tap into my art (but that's slow too)Delete
this is a struggle I have had my whole life. And especially now when I really wish to dip my toes into selling one day. I suppose turning off all the social media at least temporarily would help, but like most of us I am immensely inspired by the beautiful eye candy out there.ReplyDelete
please excuse this second post but I wanted to say that I often see something that I love, lets say mushrooms. And they did a whole series of mushrooms and they're lovely. And so, sadly, I stop drawing mushrooms because it's "been done already". But darn it, everything's been done already and I wish I would stop using this as an excuse. I need an art psychologist lolReplyDelete
This is an important point. There is a sense in which it HAS 'all been done' and it makes it a struggle to find an authentic place to operate that is also reasonably fresh.Delete
You raise some good questions anyone struggles with at some time or another. So here are my thoughts:ReplyDelete
Learning principles of design is important but it allows wide berth I think- a tool, not a rule! The best indigenous artists and untrained creators (Gees Bend you know!)) went with instinct. Those of us working alone in our studios have some challenges.
Building up my own voice involved a “style” change. I wanted to do what I thought was unique to me and in a way that seemed more natural to me.
Work I have done in the last couple of years are what I use as touchstones, of sorts. Not to stay static but to evolve from. A step-and-repeat process. Work in a manner or with whatever parameters you like and keep doing it for awhile. And then do more.
A Guston quote I love: “Studio Ghosts: When you're in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you - your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics... and one by one if you're really painting, they walk out. And if you're really painting YOU walk out.” Guess he is talking about being in the zone.. what they now call flow state?
So, I try to follow my instincts and take create work that is NOT like others as much as I can. Hard to NOT compare our work with other we think are successful or admire for other reasons. We are social creatures after all.
And Damn the torpedoes of self doubt when someone looks at a work and goes.. “Hmm…” or it does not get into a show one show versus another. I try to shake off the self questioning.
On social (mainly insta) I follow some accounts I feel are legitimately good, and I bookmark a few whose work has elements or processes that I relate to, and makes me think in a different way about some aspects of color or design.. but not copy. And I try to support them with real comments, not just “likes”
There are a lot of very “in” type of painters featured (don’t you love the ones with the sexy “look at me! shots?? Sex sells!) So I delete accounts that do not add my sense of wonder or where I see no real value in.
Library is a good resource for me to study particular artists. I have been finding some great stuff on Kanopy about artists and their process, like Sol Lewitt and Agnes Martin are enlightening(the one about Sol Lewitt at MASSMOCA wall drawings and his process of making his art available anywhere…. WOW).
Selling - ya, well, I don’t really sell much but am getting into some good exhibits which is nice.. I am still working at this so I guess I don’t work to sell, but financilly I do need to find some way to make some income. Been asked to do some demos and have done a few good teaching gigs nearby. BUT the painting has to come first.
Well, that was good for me to think about - thanks Jane!
I'm still in such a learning phase that I want to know all the "secrets" of art making! I'm busy following instructions and copying the masters. Yet, I do art journals that not even my inner critic gets to see. Over the past few years I can see my individual expression in what I do.ReplyDelete
I'm in a learning phase too. If I see a piece of art I like, I try to make something like that. I do this to learn what it is I like about that particular piece. I'm just playing all the time with media, value, contrast and color. When I work in a series I see what my default shapes are; this teaches me a lot. Highly recommend Jane's composition online classes.Delete
"I do this to learn ..." That sounds like why I do it, too. I've taken several of her downloadable and online interactive workshops. I love the creative development and see how it informs my art journal pages and urban sketching. 100 paintings taught me the value of working in a series and helped me to realize I could commit to the work. I'm hoping for one on visual sentences!Delete
I use several references for inspiration then usually stop referring to the images once I’m under the spell. I look at cement cracks, numbers in the environment, rust, trees…. I’m always “under the influence” of observing. If it’s not mine, whose is it?ReplyDelete
authenticity comes from confidence building through practice.....ReplyDelete
After a year of recuperating fromReplyDelete
An injury I have completely given up on my art practice. I was working on a large painting. Now I look at my unfinished work and think : isn’t there something I can do to
Make it more fun and simple? I went to a very good art show last week and saw a lot of what I would like to do. I’m feeling that simple is better and maybe getting a stretch book might be fun to JUST PLAY. I have forgotten how to play
I don't understand why it has to be in a journal? What's wrong with a piece of paper? Is it the convenience of keeping it all in one place? With a book you can't turn the page to do something else until the first thing has dried. I have to work on 3 or 4 things at a time or I can't do anything. In a journal you can only look at one page at a time. Is that what it's about? That feels too constricting. Maybe that's the whole point?ReplyDelete
Single papers are fine! Do what works for you! I do both depending on what I'm doing. Jour means day, that's all.Delete
An artist I know once said he tries to make something he has never seen before each time he begins. I have been trying that motivation and have found it leads to delightful surprises, insights, and courage to experiment. Of course, there can be disappointing outcomes, but Jane, you have shown us how to problem-solve with gesso, paint, lines and scribbles, scissors, collage, cropping and so much more. Thank you for showing how exciting creativity can be!ReplyDelete
I'm also trying to change up my paintings. I'm bored with what I call my "ditto" paintings. I'm finding myself enjoying painting without thinking of will it sell. Just living in the moment of color, paint and canvas. It's not easy letting go.of the rules, but definitely worth it! Just go for it, trust your instincts!!ReplyDelete
I have found that my flow has something to do with a conversation I'm having with myself, as though I am the only one there, playing with the materials, finding a thread and following it, listening and responding. I also think that the doubts, the anxiety, the frustration is also part of the "work" - the struggle is intrinsic to art-making - art doesn't spring out of nowhere, full-formed!!! Whether or not I show up to do the work is always up to me...ReplyDelete
Thought provoking questions! I think the way I paint is like doing a crossword puzzle or suduko. Self taught, for years I floundered around trying to figure things out by reading books and talking to people, watching technique videos on Youtube. Then I took some classes, was encouraged, took more classes, learned more technique. Gradually even though I am influenced by those whose art I like and those whose courses I have taken, I can see that what I make eventually turns into something that looks like 'me'. Usually I have some idea in mind - usually an emotion or phrase/thought that wants to show up on paper, canvas, board. I triptych I called 'Burden of Sorrow' is an example. Some are dark and complicated, yet have a beauty of their own. Some of my paintings have sold, which is a compliment. It's kind of like selling a piece of me to someone else. That's an interesting process! The questions you raise Jane are ones I ask myself all the time. It takes time to build confidence (for me) to flop around, then find my feet and then go and paint. Sometimes I paint over, collage over, more paint... till I get something that looks right. I totally admire your exploration with stripes and couldn't copy that if I tried. I am inspried by your focus and daring. Who knew stripes would be such a beautiful thing! Thank you for asking these questions...ReplyDelete
Thanks for your thoughts, Nancy. I want to take issue with the term "self-taught". A lot of people use it to mean that they did not go to art school. Which implies a greater value on art school than on independent workshops. If you have taken classes and workshops you are not self-taught. I feel like as a teacher I have a greater impact on individual students/participants than I would ever have on a college kid. People are in the workshop because they want to be there and have devoted serious resources (time, money) to being there, not because it's a required course. I think this makes the learning more intense. When I take a workshop, I learn WAY more than I ever did in a collage art class. I am not saying that art college teachers don't have a big impact - many do, on many students - I am just saying that learning in a less systematic, more as-needed, basis is at least as valuable. So let's take a look at the term 'self-taught' and not use it to describe taught-by-teachers-not-in-a-formal-art-program.Delete
This is a great question, and one I have struggled with. Shutting down the inner critic is hard. It is also difficult to shut out the voice of 'what will sell'.ReplyDelete
Doing the things that we like can even sometimes be hard -- when you can do anything, what do you WANT to do?? At least for me, sometimes it becomes that elemental.
This year, I am working to develop a process that will hopefully see me through some of those troughs in inspiration, and lead to more authentic work.
I do think regularly producing anything, whether in a sketchbook or just on a sheet of newsprint, is important.
I feel like I’m constantly seeking a specific style – that it would become my own signature. If I don’t have one, then my art is not original art but a reproduction of the work of inspiring artists out there.ReplyDelete
But we are all unique. I’ve come to realize that what I see I never successfully reproduce as I see it or imagine it to be. Translating what I see goes through processes such as time, action, mood, medium used, texture of substrate, etc. And so this is where the “uniqueness” reveals itself – once I’ve put it down in front of me. Knowing this helps me stop fighting with the search for a specific style.
I think a lot of us have this experience. AND, I think we as artists generally see the diversity in our work, while others may see a 'signature style'.Delete
Wonderful reflections! I tend to work small, or at least start small -- I seem to be more interested in finding the interplay between smaller fields of things (and I don't know of anyone else who does that so I'm not in danger of copying anyone) -- I'm fortunate that I do not depend on or use art-making for an income (except to purchase more supplies) so I don't have an external voice critiquing whether or not what I'm doing is 'sellable' -- it's generally a matter of coming to a point where I am satisfied with where I have taken something -- that it is 'complete in itself' even if it is only a few elements.ReplyDelete
Nice! Sounds like you've got an attitude and approach that works for you.Delete
Go deep. Make something. Commune with it. Listen to it. Focus on something about it that speaks to you. Make the next thing. It is a journey. If something wonderful happens that also speaks to others consider that a by-product of the journey. Allow your work to evolve without purpose. Let it lead you and find comfort in the dialogue between you and your medium.ReplyDelete
I am totally on board with that. Thanks for this perspective.Delete
Thanks for so many great insights and comments!ReplyDelete