How Do You Find Your Voice?
A recurring theme with polymer artists is that they long to find their artistic voice. A worthy desire! We all want to express things that are unique to us.
I don’t believe, however, that it’s something you go out and find. You already have it. You just have to get out of your own way.
Your handwriting is distinctive, right? You form each letter pretty much the way you were taught but somehow, you can’t help but put your own unique slant on each letter. Somehow, by the infinitesimal motions of your hand, you create a line of text that is so distinct that anyone familiar with your writing would instantly know who wrote it. And your brain does it without even being aware of the formation of each letter. It’s perfectly automatic because you’ve done it a million times.
If you pay a lot of attention to your handwriting and then try on different script styles, trying to find the one that fits the best, will it help you find your ‘true handwriting’? No, not really. You develop your own handwriting by…well…writing the words. Sure, paying attention to the way you hold the pen (technique) will make neater handwriting. But it doesn’t change your voice.
Want to develop your own voice? It’s already there. It’s YOU. Your own particular way of making aesthetic choices or holding a tool or deciding when something is done. The best way to refine your own personal artistic voice is to make things your way. Not imitating others. Not using kits. But by making, doing, using the materials, and becoming comfortable with the choices that will shape the work into something that is unmistakably YOU.
What Does Your Voice “Look” Like?
It’s easy for me to say that we all have a voice. But when you look at the polymer clay work you’re doing, not all of us see something distinctive. How can you find your voice, and how do you know what it looks like when you find it?
We all have a voice. It’s in everything you do. The way you make choices. The colors you choose to wear. The way you arrange furniture or organize a closet. The way you walk slowly or cut vegetables or sweep the floor. It’s…well…um…YOU. So why don’t you see any “you-ness” in your artwork?
Well…and I’m going to be painfully point-blank here….have you allowed it to be there? Are you allowing “you-ness” into your work? Or instead, are you making things that follow a procedure? If you make a skinner blend sheet, apply a silkscreen, cut it with a cutter, and glue on a bail, how can “you-ness” make its way into what you made? That’s a formula. (And formulas have a place, but not when looking for your individual voice.)
Can you draw? If you’re like most people, you’ll respond that you can’t. That’s because drawing is a complex skill (kind of like handwriting), and it takes practice to do well. Most of us learned early that it’s easier (and safer) to draw lollipop trees and triangle-roofed houses rather than drawing what we see. We learned to rely on a formula rather than learning how to draw well. When you try to realistically draw something now, it likely looks pretty rough because you’ve never developed this skill, just like a first-grader who is learning to write.
So back to your voice. You’ve probably been hiding it with formulas for so long that it’s rusty. But it’s there. Trust me. And the people who are close to you can likely see it already.