Weekly Question No. 19 - On Finding Our Own Voice.

edited April 2 in General Discussion


Ok, so we’ve watched all the DMP videos and put all of Mark's instruction into practice. We’ve done several dozen paintings – still lifes, portraits and a few landscapes. We have become proficient realist painters. With all that now under our belt, we want to find owe own voice, our own style. As wonderful as Mark's paintings are, we don't want ours to be mistaken for his. We want the style of our work to be unique, original and recognizable.  But what is style? What is it that makes a painter’s work unique and recognizable? And how do we find our own voice, our own style?


RUESGA

Comments

  • CBGCBG -
    edited April 3
    @tassieguy

    Your own voice or style is whatever is authentically your vision, and your means of attaining that vision.  When you paint what you want to paint, how you want to paint it, and when that painting looks the way you want it to look you have reached your own authentic style.  this of course in and of itself may take much practice, experimentation, and many years.

    That style, might not be unique, or recognizable, or it might be.... but if you purposefully choke or suppress or artificially adjust your own artistic instincts or that creative person in you, in reaction to this or that in the market or work from other painters, or any other outside consideration....  you might, as a result, be more unique and/or recognizable, but IMHO you will have stifled if not killed your own authentic artistic voice.

    To find your voice you need only sing!
    MichaelD
  • Thanks, @CBG. If I might summarize, you say that just by just painting, our own style will emerge. I think that's right. Purposefully trying to cultivate a style rather than just following our instincts and painting naturally may result in us losing our own voice rather than finding it.
    MichaelD
  • Folks

    Your voice is a unique and recognizable artistic style that is distinctly your own; your inspiration, your materials, techniques, themes and color palette all working together in a way that looks like it comes from you and no one else. https://weallsew.com/what-is-an-artists-voice-and-how-to-find-it/

    Useful article in the link above. Generally, the author says we don’t need to find a voice, just develop what we already have.

    My contrarian view is:

    A voice may be a boring rut that smothers exploration of ideas, materials and techniques.

    A voice may be an expression of the “least effort” principle.

    Your mum may be the only person in the world that likes that painting voice.

    A voice is really just the over exploitation of a brush technique - stippling, impasto etc.

    The more real a representative painting, the less voice it has/needs.

    Denis





    MichaelD
  • I would think that “Finding our own voice” could mean doing the work to develop our skills and then using those skills to express ourselves, like learning a language to then speak it.
    It’s by our commitment to “our voice” being heard or understood that could make us recognizable.
    But there has to be that other person who relates or enjoys your art and see’s it’s value, which it could happen tomorrow or 100 years from now.. who knows. 
    MichaelD
  • Thanks, @dencal and @joydeschenes

    That was an interesting article, Denis. The writer says that our voice is there all the time. We don't have to create one, we just have to find our own. 

    Yes, @joydeschenes, it's one thing to find our own style/voice but whether others like/understand it is another matter.  :)
    MichaelD
  • @tassieguy,

    Well I have not done all of the things you mention in your first sentence, but I have learned a lot from Mark.

    I am unsure if I have yet found my style or if I am yet to stumble upon it. I guess I find it hard to be objective about it.

    I have tended to enjoy doing fairly detailed work, but have also enjoyed doing work a little looser.

    I think your work Rob is a a fine example of an artist with a definite style in that your work can be recognised as having been done by you.

    Im not sure I could say the same of my own, yet.

     Guess I am still searching.

     :) 
  • I am not at that stage where I try to develop my own style after years of experience, but I think what matters most for me right now is to modestly bring a little bit of poetry to the world, and communicate feelings that I would not be able to do with words. My goal is to be able to transfer some feelings into the image and get people moved by that. That would be enough for, even if my style is not recognized.
    Probably in some years from with more experience will I revisit these questions. It's too early for me to speak about finding my own voice.
    MichaelD
  • edited April 3
    Thanks, @MichaelD.

    I see the beginnings of a style in your work, Michael. You emphasize simplicity and focus in on what's important without getting bogged down in detail. You recent painting of the dish rack is a good example. And most recently the simple bowl with the highlight in its interior. This emphasis on simplicity gives nobility and presence to the everyday items in your work. 

    I think it takes time and a lot of painting to really get a feel for the direction we want to go in and how we want our work to look. There are a lot of facets to 'style'.  I think it has to do with subject matter, with brushwork, the sort of palette we develop...   It's the unique combination of these things that makes a painters work recognizable. I mean, look at VVG. Who would not recognize his brushwork, texture and colour? Or go back to Vermeer. His interiors with figures are unmistakable. No doubt it happens quicker for some than others but I think if we keep at it a style emerges.  :)
    MichaelDCBG
  • edited April 3
    Thanks, @adridri. Yes, it takes time. I don't think it's something we should worry about when we're just starting out. It's something for later when we start exhibiting and selling. In the first few years it has to be about learning technique - acquiring basic skills. But, after seeing your landscapes, I think you are well on your way.  :)
  • Thank you @tassieguy for the kind words.

    I admit that there is a part of me that feels because I am still growing as an artist, and always will be, I still feel that I am searching and exploring. Part of me feels that If I were to recognise a style of my own that I have come to then I would then be bound to stay on that track. This I fear may stifle the liberating feelings and mindset that I get from creating paintings.

    I know I would not necessarily have to stick to a style that I had evolved, but I also know its importance.

    I guess a part of my feels it would be stifling if I got recognised for doing things a certain way, as I would then be expected to produce that.

    I also have a tendency to over think.

  • Cheers, @MichaelD. The good thing abut it is that there's no hurry. I think it's something that comes later. And style evolves and changes. I mean, Picasso, for example, had his realist period, his "blue" period, his cubist period...  I think we just have to let it happen and not try to shoehorn ourselves into a particular idiom. That would certainly stifle us.
  • I think some artists confuse having their own voice or style with having to stand out from the crowd. So they try various conceptual ideas like using blurring, rectangle blocks of colour over the final painting, or other image effects. IMHO this is more of a gimmick and quickly gets dated so they move onto a new idea.
    CBGAbstractionBoudicca
  • Thanks, @Richard_P. Yes I agree. People tire of cheap gimmicks pretty quickly.  :)
  • I am with @MichaelD here, in that I have not been religious about viewing and doing all Mark's videos.    I tend to randomly pick and choose whatever strikes my fancy at any given moment in time.  I am not disciplined enough to paint what others suggest to help me learn, and tend to paint what I feel I need to in the short time I have to paint (the odd gift, commission, for an exhibition, etc...).    I tell myself, one day I will have time....!

    As for personal style, voice, technique,; I doubt anyone could look at the variety of things I have puddled with over the years and be able to say they were created by me.     I would be some future art historians nightmare if I were good enough for some future art historian to be looking at my work.    As it is, I am realistic enough to know most of my works will be either gifted to charity shops over the next 50 years, or thrown away once the people who know me are dead and buried.    Until that day, my works are signed so if presented with them in my lifetime, I could recognise them!

    As I said to someone yesterday, I have done 5 small paintings in the last few days and some look like an amateur works and some look quite good.    It is like 2 different people painted them.    Blessed if I know how to develop a style; perhaps it how you hold your tongue as you paint.....?
  • edited April 3
    Thanks, @toujours:)

    Like you, and I suspect a lot of others, I didn't paint every painting or watch every DMP instruction video. I zeroed in on things that might help with what I was trying to paint at the moment. But I have watched most of them and I have tried to learn Mark's technique.

    I don't think style is something we ought to worry about when we're still at the stage of acquiring basic skills. Maybe we'd start to think about it when we are painting regularly, producing a good amount of work and are  trying to carve out a niche and market for ourselves. But even then, I can't help feeling that it has to happen organically as we become more experienced and have figured out what really interests us. I don't think we just wake up one day and decide on a style.
  • Today I am going to paint like Rembrandt... ;)
    tassieguyCBGallforChristanwesha
  • Richard_P said:
    Today I am going to paint like Rembrandt... ;)
    ....and tomorrow, you will surpass him....?
  • CBGCBG -
    edited April 3
    tassieguy said:
    Thanks, @CBG. If I might summarize, you say that just by just painting, our own style will emerge. I think that's right. Purposefully trying to cultivate a style rather than just following our instincts and painting naturally may result in us losing our own voice rather than finding it.
    Not really what I meant.  Cultivation is growing and caring for something.  That is perfectly fine.  Reacting to external pressure, peer pressure, fear of rejection or lust for approval, emotional temptations from the opposite of “self” ie the mob or the crowd, I would say interfere with one’s authentic personal voice.

    So my point is not so much about a dichotomy between rational versus emotional, purposeful action versus instinct or intuition, it was about what it means to have an authentic voice from inside versus all the other voices out there.

    Who are you? What do you want?  What’s your voice? contra. Who someone else is, what they want, what their voice is.   This isn’t about what they or you actually paint but what you authentically want to paint.  Being reactionary is just as inauthentic whether we follow the crowd like sheeple or whether we dutifully and unthinkingly go against the crowd, like a rebel without a cause.

    I’m not saying it’s easy to find what is authentically YOU, but I am proposing that it is crucial to an authentic voice in art.
  • Sometimes it seems to me that some artists are pulled into producing what clients want, rather than having the freedom to paint the way they would like to.
  • @toujours

    I agree… but I think that only appears to work over the short term.  The negative effects on the artist spirit, motivation, development probably outweigh the short term gains.  I cannot think of a better way to make an artist hate art, stagnate in skills and quit early than chasing dollars and pandering to clients at the expense of their craft.
  • edited April 3
    Thanks, @toujours. Yes, I think that can happen. That would make painting a chore for me and it's why I can't imagine doing commissions. If something doesn't interest me I can't paint it with passion. Things I not passionate about, but do because I have to, are just chores and it would be awful if art were like that.

    @CBG, thanks for clarifying that. I agree we want to be authentic, true to our own aesthetic and not be pushed and pulled this way and that by fashions, trends, popularity etc. But perhaps authenticity and style are two different issues. In life in general, and not just in art,  we want to be authentic and true to our own ideals. But, to my mind, style in art is a different, more specific issue than being true to our own aesthetic. It's the way our work looks. What I wanted to discuss was what style actually is. What are its elements? What is it that makes one painter's painting of a bunch of flowers or a landscape distinguishable from another's even though they paint the same subject?  What would you say are the elements of style in art?

    I know it's difficult to discuss an issue like this in the abstract so maybe I should try to find works by two well known artists with distinct styles and ask folks to talk about their individual styles.  I don't know how long it will take me to do that so in the meantime  I'd be very interested to read what you, @CBG and others,  think the elements of style are.  :)
  • Here are two paintings of the night sky by famous 19th Century painters. The first is by the important American painter Winslow Homer and the second by Vincent Van Gogh. They are not of exactly the same scene but they are both of the night sky and show an artists response to it. 

    If we were discussing the elements of style what would you say distinguishes the styles of these two painters?




  • CBGCBG -
    edited April 3
    @tassieguy

    I suspect a concept like style is more important to an art critic/academic than a creative artist.  Given the paucity of my output, I fall into a category closer to the former than the latter, so I will share some thoughts.

    Style might be a way people can categorize art and/or recognize an artist.  I think this is mostly a construct of convenience, at least when dealing with truly independent minded artists who simply paint what they want and how they want to.  So us as viewers, grasp at distinguishing features which lend themselves to groupings, and are helpful in identification (assuming some artists "choose" to paint similar things or in similar ways, either to each other or personally across a body of work) of works into grouping.  Due to the purpose of the concept, "style" I would say it is defined by anything one can point at (but perhaps not subject matter, which I believe is conceptually independent of style).

    So use of color, saturation, form, brush work, optical blending, glazing, splashes, gimmicks, you name it, all probably can be used as elements of what defines a style.  For categories of artists works, collectives, movements, some subset of these would be identified as particularly relevant to defining the "style".  Those elements where the group, consistency differs from other groups, but remains the same in the group would suit to define it, while those elements which are just as varied and/or uncommon to each work in the group as well as works outside the group would not be useful in defining the style of the group.  Similarly for the body of work of a single artist or particular periods of the artist, assuming the artist had a single style during a life oir in each period.

    In your example, the subject matter is an imaginative (not from a reference) rendition of a night scene. We could analyse what each artist has done here, in each single painting but nothing here is indicative of a style without reference to other works IMHO.  An artist has chosen to paint realistically, the other something more abstract, one artist has chosen to use more saturated colors, and particular kinds of brush strokes, the other has not.  In essence anything beyond general subject matter could be indicative of style, but until there are commonalities amongst a group of pieces by one or more painters, we simply have unique paintings.

    Anything and everything about how a painting looks and how it was created(to the extent it remains visible) can go into "fabricating"/defining any particular "Style" and attributing it or associating it with any one artist or group of artists, or group of works, but style is not dependent upon content or subject matter.  IMHO
  • “what is style? What is it that makes a painter’s work unique and recognizable? And how do we find our own voice, our own style?“

    I think of style and voice as two different things.  I see style in terms of techniques that are learned and voice that is more like a personal tone, like what you say and how you say it.

    I think style can be learned.  I recently looked at a Rembrandt and a painting by one of his students.  They both had the Rembrandt style but the way they spoke were different.


  • Thanks, @GTO. Yes, maybe I should have just used the work "style" rather than conflating "voice" and "style". Your examples are instructive.  :)
  • CBG said:
    @tassieguy

    ...use of color, saturation, form, brush work, optical blending, glazing, splashes, gimmicks, you name it, all probably can be used as elements of what defines a style.  
    Yes, these are the concrete elements I had in mind when talking about "style". 
  • edited April 4
    Richard_P said:
    I think some artists confuse having their own voice or style with having to stand out from the crowd. So they try various conceptual ideas like using blurring, rectangle blocks of colour over the final painting, or other image effects. IMHO this is more of a gimmick and quickly gets dated so they move onto a new idea.
    Important distinction. And this can be gimmicky (the 'Ned Kelly mask' gimmick of Sydney Nolan, 20th century Australian artist, is a great example - and I'm no fan), or sincerely trying to find fresh space. So if I was trying to make my mark - nothing wrong with it, that's what Bowie was doing in music very deliberately - I would be looking for impact that both reflected me, the time and my response to it.
    But my paintings aren't even for sale. I just paint what I feel like painting. As others have expressed very well - voice emerges from who we are: a) What we choose to paint; b) the styles we choose; c) dozens of subtleties in the way we make brush marks, mix colours, everything on the canvas.
    The frustration for many of us is the process of learning to be articulate with that voice. Developing the skills to fully capture that vision. There's always more inside that we strive to see actualised. I think my last two paintings are me. Before that it was me learning to speak. Then I said to myself - enough learning, enough practice, say something serious.
    CBG
  • Thanks, @Abstraction. I agree re Nolan's Ned Kelly paintings. They never did it for me.  The idea became a cheap device.

    Your point about learning and practice vs saying something serious is interesting. Do we ever stop learning and practicing? Do we wake up one day as fully fledged authentic artists with our own distinctive style? 
  • edited April 4
    @tassieguy There is no implication intended that we ever stop learning, or there is a clear line we cross...
    Just before Covid, because of travel I dropped out of a portrait class before it commenced, so she kindly sent me the Rembrandt image. I was thinking of doing it and that's when I thought: nah. Enough lessons (not meaning, 'enough learning'). In the spirit of this:
    And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
    No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
    The gun has gone. Paint something serious, original. Throw everything into it.

  • tassieguy said:
    Thanks, @Abstraction. I agree re Nolan's Ned Kelly paintings. They never did it for me.  The idea became a cheap device.

    Your point about learning and practice vs saying something serious is interesting. Do we ever stop learning and practicing? Do we wake up one day as fully fledged authentic artists with our own distinctive style? 
    In answer to your last question. yes, I think some people do start and end with a very distinctive style.  The way they hold the brush, the way their brains are wired as to getting the message from imagination/interpretation to canvas via the brain.   These things seem to have a greater uniqueness in some people than in others.    Perhaps some people fight it when learning initially and strive to emulate established artists and lose what may have become distinctive?    

    Not a one size fits all answer may be closer to the way it works.
  • edited April 4
    Thanks, @Abstraction. Yes, I see what you mean. We get to the stage where we want to say something original, something our own,  rather than just do another master copy. For the serious painter, I guess that has to happen eventually. 

    Thanks, @toujours. Yes, we see that stifling of originality quite often. The Australian tonalist followers of Max Meldrum, for example, all ended up painting more like Meldrum than Meldrum and none of them, apart from perhaps Clarice Beckett, made good. There's some point at which we have to say, well, ok, I've done the lessons, acquired the skills, and then ask, now what do I want to say with them? How will I use them to say something original and authentic?
    Abstraction
  • Your voice is a collection of habits and mistakes that you are blind to and continue to make despite everything and everyone around you trying to beat it out of you.
  • Get well soon Rob! Thinking of you.
    tassieguy
  • Thanks, @Richard

    Never get kidney stones! I've been too ill to be much use here on the forum this last week. I even missed posting the Weekly Question. I expect to feel like crap for another 10 days or so until I get the ureteral stent removed. But I will get better. I've still been painting when the pain eases a little in order to relieve the boredom of laying around all day. Keeps me sane.  :)
  • Sounds horrific! Best wishes from all of us here.. :)
    tassieguyGTOMichaelD
  • @tassieguy

    I hope you are feeling better soon Rob, leave no stone unturned to do so.

    It will pass.

    Sorry those are not the phrases you want to hear after what you have been through  :)

    But seriously Get well soon.


    tassieguy
  • Hope things are easing a bit for you @tassieguy, on the pain front and it soon turns to discomfort rather that outright pain.

    I have started a painting of some granite rocks in Stanthorpe Qld.  Have wiped off the canvas 3 times so far, but think I have it sorted now.    Wishing for some of your skill and technique at this point in time!
    tassieguy
  • edited April 12
    Very good question. :)  

    I have done exactly a dozen paintings since learning the DMP method.  I think I'm still in the 'follow the DMP method as best you can' stage.  I want to get so much better in my realism.  Some of these dozen paintings I have let myself go and painted freely and undisciplined.  That was fun in a way but the results were worse, mostly. 

    My hope is to get better at disciplined, DMP realism so that I can better have a voice to express.  I may want to do something in my head, but if my understanding of values and colors are poor than my voice will be poor.  

    Hopefully that makes sense.  I have a ways to go in realism before I can have an effective style.

    (edited to say that I am praying for you, @tassieguy.  how mobile are you right now?)
    tassieguy
  • edited April 13
    Thank you, @allforChrist. Yes, it made perfect sense. 

    I think a personal style is not something we should worry about, especially not early on when we are just starting out. I think it's something that happens gradually and organically over time without much conscious awareness. It's not like there are a heap of styles to choose from and one day we just decide on one. I think we just have to let our style emerge.

    Thanks also for your thoughts on my tedious health problems. I'm somewhat mobile. I was allowed to leave the hospital on the understanding that I would treat home as hospital. Nothing strenuous. But I'm not the type to lay about. I'm still able to stand at the easel and paint when the pain is not too bad.  :)
  • I have found after many years of painting your "voice" evolves.  You won't have to sign your painting for someone to recognize your work. People recognize the sound of your voice, your handwriting, sometimes the fragrance you wear and eventually your paintings too.
    GTO
  • edited April 13
    Thanks, @oilpainter1950. That's one of the things I find interesting about style. It's not something we suddenly choose one day but something that evolves over years of painting and makes a painter's work recognizable. When I look at paintings by famous painters I can very often say who painted it, even if the painter's name is not on it.  Style is as unique as fingerprints. And that's one reason why it's so difficult to paint a really good fake. The best forgers are able to pick up on style.  :)  
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