Monday, June 23, 2008

The Creative Journey - Part Four

The interesting thing about finding one’s artistic voice is this – its not really lost. Perhaps hidden (did you look behind the milk?) or misplaced (I have no idea why I put the car keys in the silverware drawer!) or put away (you know, in that place where it'll be safe.) But not lost.

Your artistic voice is not something that you have to buy and it’s not something that someone can teach you. Although the right materials and techniques play into communicating your voice effectively, the thing that makes your paintings uniquely yours is something that grows inside you like a seed, informed by your life experiences, shaped by your temperament, nourished by your soul. It is a passion for something, a unique way of seeing that is entirely your own perspective. Your artistic voice is something you are born with.

I believe all people are born with this kernel of self-truth within them, but as we become self-aware, the kernel is hidden by layers and layers of self-protection, encrusted in doubts, fears and the distractions of living. Only those of us who are artists – whether we are visual artists, writers, dancers, actors or musicians - have this compulsion to peal back the layers to find that pearl of universal truth that we carry inside. When we’ve found that truth, if we can communicate it, others will resonate with it.

So one leg of the journey to “finding one’s artistic voice” is the journey within, to find what it is we passionately want to communicate to the world. How do we discover this? One way is writing in a journal. In her book, “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron encourages readers to write three pages in a journal everyday for twelve weeks in order to break creative blocks. In this journal you write about anything, everything and sometimes nothing. I had a couple of days where I truly wrote about nothing, as in “I have nothing to say today. I am unmotivated to write. This is stupid…” The funny thing is, about 1-1/2 pages of writing Nothing, Something would just about write itself on the pages, usually something I had no idea in my conscious mind that I was thinking about.

Reading and doing the writing exercises in a book called
“Writing the Artist Statement,” by Ariane Goodwin is another way to home in on what you truly want to say with your art. Coming up with a succinct, meaningful and personal artist statement is a crucial piece of the Artistic Voice puzzle. There is nothing like having to “reveal the true spirit of your work” to get you to focus on what that spirit really is. For me, writing my artist statement not only helped me describe my work to others, but, more importantly, it gave me a focus. A-ha! This is what my work is about. This is what I’m trying to communicate.

In Part Five, I’ll talk about the other leg of the journey to finding one’s artistic voice – visual journaling to find the outward expression of the inner passion.

Kate Dardine
Marketing Consultant

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Creative Journey, Part Three

Finding My Own Voice

When my creativity coach asked me what I wanted to accomplish in our sessions, I told her I wanted to find my own voice. She asked me to define this. That threw me for a loop. Wasn’t it obvious?

But the more I thought about it, the more I understood the wisdom of her question. I wasn’t really sure what I meant. At first I thought, it’s having my own style. So that someone could look at a painting and know I did it. But then I thought, no, it is more than that. It is being able to convey through my paintings an emotion, a passion, a connection.

I wanted my paintings to transcend the “pretty picture” and spark the spiritual embers inside the viewer. I wanted to say something with my paintings well enough that viewers would “get it.”All very well and good, but what did I want to say? And could I say it painting landscapes, barns, horses, cows, goats and birds? Or did I need to narrow my focus with a series?

I had been working on a series called “Equine Spirit” for over a year, using the horse as a metaphor for the power, energy, emotion and passion of nature. What I had discovered in the process is that the horse was also a metaphor for my own spiritual growth. As I worked with my coach, I realized that part of my confusion with my voice had more to do with my ability to project my voice, rather than not knowing what to say. And it had to do with my fear of rejection. Which, of course, is tied into my confidence in my self.

She asked me if I ever painted “just for fun.” I wasn’t sure what she meant. Painting is fun for me (also frustrating, elating, depressing, joyful, angry - and every other emotion you can possibly think of!) 'No", she said, "I mean do you ever just play with paint? See what comes out when you are not trying to create a “real” painting?"

I had to think about that.The answer was, no, I never just played. I sometimes painted intuitively, just putting paint on a canvas with no real idea of where it would go. But in the end, I’d always know I was creating a Painting. And there were certain standards that I imposed upon myself. And judgments. Is it good? Does this look right? Will anyone like it? (that is the worst question – anticipating the judgment of some faceless art critic!)

So my assignment was to do what my coach called “visual journaling.” I was to get some butcher paper and some tempera paint, tape large pieces of paper to the wall of my studio and just paint. These paintings would never be Paintings. They would just be experiments with color, composition, brush stroke and subject. They didn’t have to be Good. No one but me would ever see them.

And so I was able to paint freely, without censorship, with child-like abandon. This wasn’t my Work, it was Play! And it was Fun! And interestingly, what I learned in Play translated to what I wanted to accomplish in my Work.

My brushstrokes became looser and bolder. I began to “let go” of paintings that weren’t working – sometimes wiping out five hours of painting. My compositions began to get more abstract – I finally “saw” the composition as a framework for the painting. (Before, I thought the other way around – I saw a good composition as the result of placing separate objects in the right place, not as the underpinning and structure for the painting as a whole.

I try not to analyze too much why I never “got” the concept of composition as a foundation for a painting. But suddenly, it is like the proverbial light bulb was turned on.)In my next blog, I’ll talk about the next steps in “finding my voice.”

Kate Dardine
Marketing Consultant

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Creative Journey, Part Two

Part Two: Defining Goals

In my last blog I talked about being confused in my art life, and feeling like I was on some kind of weird reality show. I enlisted the help of a creativity coach to help me organize the steps needed to attain my goals.

We started out by defining my goals – everything from goals relating to my personal life to goals in my creative life. (They are definitely inter-related.) These goals were further broken down into immediate goals – changes I could make RIGHT NOW; short-term goals – what I could accomplish in two months; to mid-range goals – what I could accomplish in a year; long-term goals – where I want to be in five years.

Then the goals were prioritized – not so much in order of importance, but in sequential order – this has to be done before this, etc. Seemingly elementary, but for me, who tends to react rather than plan, it was huge.

Because my coaching sessions were done via email, all this had to be written down. The act of putting on paper (or the computer screen in this case!) what my goals were somehow made them more tangible, more real. These were not just some ethereal dreams, they were honest-to-goodness, solid GOALS. And because they are “real,” they are attainable.I have to point out that this was nothing "new" to me. I've had mentors tell me this before. But somehow, being held accountable - this was an assignment, I had to do it - really helped me.

Organizing and writing down my goals somehow relieved some of my stress. “I have a goal…and a roadmap. I’m not lost!” Next, we started working on creativity. My creative goal was to find my own voice. My creativity coach questioned me. What do you mean by “your own voice?” I’m not sure if I even know what I meant by that at first. In my next blog, I’ll talk a bit about what finding my own voice came to mean to me.

Kate Dardine

Marketing Consultant