There have been so many times as an artist I feel like I discover a brilliant and new idea only to find another artist has had a similar idea. Instead of giving up and stopping here, I’ve begun to realize that’s the beginning of finding your unique artist voice.
Hi my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help people like you refine your skill and develop your unique artist voice. Today’s video is part two of a 5 part series all about finding voice as an artist. Together these videos are a guide to developing your unique artist style.
In part one of this guide I discuss the simple and obvious fact that to discover our voice we need to make a lot of art. While simple in theory, we have obstacles that stop us before we even start. Be sure to go back and watch part one if you missed it. I’ll be sure to link it below this video.
Today I want to emphasize another important step in developing our voice: emulating other artists.
When you hear the word “copy” does a lot of negative inner-critic speak come up? It does for me. We look down upon work that is a copy of another artist, and I’m not speaking about copyright, which is a different conversation. And yet, how did Renaissance artists learn? By copying the styles and techniques of other artists! Our culturally most revered art movement created some of the best artists in recorded history through copying each other!
Both in art circles and art education the word derivative is used to describe art that either directly copies art from history or copies a style of art. Derivative work isn’t bad, per se, but it is reflective of an artist still discovering their voice.
It doesn’t mean you should “stop copying” if your work is called derivative, it means you need to keep copying and keep creating (remember: make a lot of art!) until you stumble upon YOUR voice.
I love how Austin Kleon talks about this in Steal Like an Artist. He suggests we look up the lineage of our artist family tree: the artists and styles of art we admire. He encourages you to actively explore their techniques and styles. Because your mishmash of interests create a mishmash of techniques and style that help you define YOUR voice as an artist. That’s exactly why you can and should dig into the history of that painting by Picasso called Guernica.
The problem is many artists stop here. We can start showing our work to others at this point and get the feedback that our art is not unique. Or, some even start promoting or selling this work when it clearly copies another artist (and this is where copying becomes unethical).
Instead, what if part of our “make a lot of art” strategy encouraged us to copy and explore artists we admire? What if that work is part of the journey that leads you to better understand the work you wish to create?
Give yourself permission to copy for a while, for educational purposes. See what you learn and follow the curiosity that is sparked by your explorations. That’s where you’ll find your voice.
Do you want feedback on the art you are currently creating?
As part of this series I’m hosting a Facebook Live weekly Q and A on our Facebook Page Becoming Artist Strong. I’ll give you specific feedback on your art and answer your questions about developing your unique artist voice.
Post your question or the artwork you want feedback on to the Facebook page, inside our Facebook Group, or tag me @ArtistStrong on Instagram. I look forward to seeing you Fridays at 12:30 Eastern Standard time.
Don’t worry: if you can’t make it live, the replay will be available on the Facebook Page, so start sending me your questions. Be sure to pop on either way to learn from other’s feedback and questions.
Now, it’s time to Be Creatively Courageous: Tell me the name of at least one artist you admire that you can start studying to help you find your voice.
It’s also not too late to join us for our community challenge the month of October called #BeCreativelyCourageous. It’s 30 days of art making and discovery. Just sign up below to get started.
Next week we will talk about the false advice given to artists that we have to stick to one style for our entire life! I look forward to that conversation. See you next week.