Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The voices in my head

As an artist your voice is your style of painting, many aspiring artists are still experimenting to find their own particular voice, for some it takes years of practice, for it comes almost immediately. I recently read an article about finding one’s artistic voice. How to Find Your Own Artistic Voice. The gist of it was that if you want to achieve greatness and fame as an artist then you need to strive to find your own, original voice that'll make your work so distinctive that you'll blow away the derivative competition.

On the surface this made sense, of course you shouldn't slavishly emulate a particular artist's style, how could it be your voice if your work was indistinguishable from the artist you're inspired by? As it went on though I began to have my doubts, ideas such as policing ones work for any hint of being influenced to other artists for instance. Again this seemed to make sense but as I thought more about it I realised what a frustrating course that could be. As far as I can see the question is whether we have control over defining what our voice is, can we force ourselves to adopt or reject particular styles or elements of our art? Also is achieving a completely original style at any cost the only way to raise ourselves from the derivative morass that is the majority of contemporary art?

I believe that to the former the answer is no, you are what you are as an artist, if you forces yourself to work in a way that is deliberately unlike anything that anyone else does or has done then you're not finding your voice, you're denying it. Your voice is inherent to you and practice will hone that voice into the best it can be.

...and to the latter? Well...that could well be true but then is it worth it? This is about finding YOUR voice remember, an awful lot of art has come before you so how likely is it that you can find this original style without ending up doing things like pickling cows, piling up soup tins or dragging your bed into the gallery. You may achieve the success and fame you desire but is that your voice? I doubt it.

To deliberately and mechanically copy a style is clearly dishonest and it'll show, but also to turn your back on your instinctive inclination, to be original at any price is also dishonest. Keep practicing, allow your creativity free rein, be true to yourself and your art become what it has to be. We cannot all be great and famous artists but we can be honest with our art.


  1. Good article Ben. I tried realism in the beginning (1985) but quickly turned to painting my subconscious in oils (abstract)- my psychiatrist of sorts. Never had lessons, but read books. I'm in the process of finding my way, my "voice", my style. It's a process and I look forward to the journey.

  2. Aye, it's an interesting process finding your voice. Of course you don't just find it and that's it either, finding your voice is just another step in your journey as an artist. You never stop developing.

  3. Hi Ben,
    I've been thinking about this post for a couple of days and can only add that I agree with everything you've written.

  4. Thanks Gary, good to hear that others see things this way too.