Mar 11, 2013

KTY | Day 12 Part 2

In my last KTY post, I left off with homework for myself to write a piece on a topic that I want to write about but that I'm not currently writing about. I chose to address a topic that is one that I can speak about forever - finding your voice as an artist. I want to hold workshops for creatives to work thru the blocks that interfere with giving oneself permission to use their creative voice but that cannot happen before finding that voice. This piece addresses that process. (sidenote, the assignment was to write a couple hundred words. I ended up at 1088 words)


So often, I hear from friends & clients “I'm not creative” or “I just can't do the artist thing”. I don't know who ever told these beautiful people that they aren't creative. I also don't understand why there's an assumption that creativity and artistic are synonymous. Every single human being has the ability to be creative. And I'm not speaking of just artistic definitions of creativity. Every time you've had to solve a problem; whether it's fitting your 4x4 pickup into a parking space designed for a Smart Car or turning that blank sheet of paper & water color paints into a masterpiece, you are using the creative part of your brain.

But considering that most peoples' definition of creativity relates to the arts and their desire to gain clarity in their own 'voice' as an artist, we'll stick to that assumption for the sake of what I want to share with you.

Your voice as an artist is unique to you. It cannot ever be replicated. It might be emulated, mimicked or even outright stolen but unless it is original work generated by your individual point of view, it will always be missing 'something'. Every artistic medium deals with this and it is most often seen in work generated by artists just starting out. New artists try to figure out what it is they want to say with their art and during that process, they look to other artists who inspire them. They will look at the work created by those artists and attempt to recreate their unique works or borrow many themes & techniques. This is where most creatives begin. And it is OK as long as this isn't where you stay. It is a part of the process and there is a much more rewarding place beyond this one.

Of course, finding inspiration in the work of those whose creations speak to you is a valuable part of the creative process, it can be a slippery slope to copy-catting. This is a very grey area and can lead to the creation of a body of work that is flat, uninspired and missing the connection that drew you (the artist) to the original piece. The most important part of looking to other artists for inspiration is to pay attention to what elements resonate with you and how they make you feel. It is then your responsibility as a unique creator of compelling work to focus on those qualities in your own pieces.

If the tone of a piece of music makes you feel melancholy and introspective, these are the qualities to bring into your own work rather than copying the melody or lyrics. If a painting exhibits texture and energy that makes you feel happy & alive, this is where you focus ought to be when creating your own painting. Same goes for photography. If a certain light setup or location evokes a sense of mystery & wonder, those qualities ought to be where you concentrate rather than shooting in an identical location and recreating the light setup.

Copying is boring and it always looks like copying. It is also not sustainable. Duplicating the work of another artist is a drain on your creative well. Generating original works is fulfilling and will ensure that your creative well never runs dry.

For me, as a mother and as a woman who has experienced loss & grief in some of my woman-to-woman relationships, I bring that emotion to my work. I lost my mother in an arguement during my brother's hospitalization right before his Schizophrenia diagnosis. She is still very much alive but so full of selfishness, pain & victim-thinking that having her in my life is very toxic. So she and I do not speak and haven't for almost a decade. Also, I lost a baby when I was 19 and that raw pain is with me to this day. I have experienced painful things that motivate me to celebrate the relationships that my clients have with their children. I stop time for these mothers who are expecting a child, whose children are growing up too fast or whose little girls are on the cusp of becoming women as they graduate high school. These relationships are the most important thing that I focus on when working with my clients.

My competitors may look at my work and may decide that they can recreate a scene or studio setup and that is probably true. But what they cannot bring to that shoot is me, my vision and my heart. The lack of those things will make their work fall flat. Every. Time.

To help you find your own creative voice ask yourself a few questions:
  1. what are my values
  2. what message do I want to communicate with my work
  3. when I am dead and gone, what will others say about me as an artist
  4. I want people to feel ___________ when they see my work

Looking at the answers found in these few questions will help you gain clarity into your own perspective and what makes your artistic expression unique. Take some time to really think on these questions and look into your own heart for the answers. They are there, but you must unlock them.

A singer may feel like the genre (folk, jazz, rock) dictates much of the message. A painter may use only still-life to be their subject matter and a photographer may choose to only shoot landscapes. Every one of those artists has something to say with their art. They may communicate joy, pain, loss, anticipation, loneliness, any number of things. Also doing something because you love it definitely factors in. But HOW you do it is influenced by the things you will learn about yourself in the above questions.

So while you may still be pursuing a clear definition of your creative voice, hopefully you see that you do possess such a gift, that it has value and yours is the only one exactly like it. You cannot be duplicated. You are beautifully unique and deserve every opportunity to express your wonderful, unique perspective freely. But once you can do it clearly & authentically, you will find your work takes on a deeper meaning, it communicates your message much more effectively and you will be more satisfied as an artist. Remind yourself of this often. It's an easy lesson to forget.

Go be unique, inspired, passionate and original. Go be you. You're the only one who can.

1 comment:

  1. I've seriously been meaning to comment on this post since you put it up, and finally just getting around to it :)

    If I had to choose adjectives to describe myself neither artistic nor creative would have made the list. As a kid I loved to draw, colour, design, build, choreograph but somewhere along the way other people's opinions, or my assumptions of their opinions started to matter. I believed that I just wasn't that artistic. I stuck to colour by numbers, step by step instructions, and sheet music; much less chance that I would do something "wrong".

    As an adult I still believed the words "creative" and "artistic" didn't describe me. In conversations about any type of artistic activity, I hear myself using phrases like "I can't", or "I'm not". I like to think I challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone and try new things, but if I'm being really honest this rarely (or never) includes artistic activities. I've realized recently that I miss getting lost in a piece of music or choreography. Thank you Vanessa for encouraging me to try drawing, and writing, and knitting even if it scared me. And thank you for reminding me that creative expressions of myself have no right or wrong.