Three Tips for Finding Your Voice As An Artist
Before marriage, before four kids, I knew myself and was confident in my voice. Sure, my anxiety was at an all-time high, but I was living as out loud and true to myself as I possibly could. 15 years later, it's not so easy to remember who I am.
I understand that might sound ridiculous, but when you spend most of your day at the beck and call of other people, you reach a point where knowing, understanding, and foreseeing their needs becomes your entire thought process.
Finding a way back to myself and how I want to express my voice was a colossal struggle. I compounded it by starting off on this journey all wrong. I put unnecessary pressures on myself, set unrealistic goals, looking for guidance in all the wrong, and most importantly, I ignored my intuition.
If you find yourself deep in the struggle of creative expression, here are a few realizations I've had over the last six months.
1. STOP TRYING TO SELL YOUR ART BEFORE YOU'VE MADE IT
You guys, for real. Can you see me...putting the cart before the horse?
So much is wrong with this way of thinking, but I found myself doing it even as I told myself NOT to.
Why? Guilt...so much guilt. I felt guilty about spending money on my "hobby." I felt guilty about asking for time for myself. I felt like a silly, frivolous person. If I was given this opportunity, it had better turn a profit.
This is such a deep-rooted issue with capitalism and the American way. I've spent my entire life equating worth with productivity. Haven't we all? I'm not here to unpack all the thoughts and feelings this epiphany brought me. I'm here to tell you that recognizing this truth and admitting that I was guilty helped me focus on why I create.
I make things because I'll go crazy if I don't get these ideas, concepts, visualizations, thoughts, etc. out of my head.
It doesn't matter if no one ever sees them.
It doesn't matter if they don't make money.
It just matters that I brought them into existence.
2. STOP CONSUMING CONTENT
If you spend all your time consuming, on social media or anywhere, you're not creating.
It's nice looking at pretty pictures; it's smart to get inspiration, but this is a slippery slope, and we all know it. Too much of anything is not healthy.
Starting on this journey, I was fearful of following my own inspiration; remember I had productivity and profitability in mind. I looked to others for a template to follow. If I took every step they took, I should have the success they have. BUT, then I'm doing their work, and I'm trying to walk in their footsteps. You guys...I wear a size 11, my feet just don't fit, and I'm going to guess neither do yours.
If you are taking class after class and adopting different opinions about what makes good art, when are you creating your own opinions? You have to dedicate more time to your own practice than anything else.
I'm not suggesting you don't get tips from experienced artists or go to them when you've hit a block; just use moderation.
Also, be wary of online artist communities. The first group I joined, every week offered a new project, and the feed was overwhelmed with "look at what I made" posts and praise for the one Artist leading the group. After a couple months, I realized I was spending almost all of my Art time recreating her ideas. They were classic subjects (that sell), and I put myself into them, but it wasn't the same.
There's no denying when you're re-creating; you're not creating.
The next time you see another cool new class do this instead; get a paintbrush and paint with the knowledge you ALREADY have!
3. GET LOST
There have always been those activities that I can get lost in. I forget to eat. I can successfully zone out my kids. I need to do those things. We all need to be doing more of those things.
For me, this means writing and collage. Since high school, these two activities have always been a part of the art I make. However, because I thought I had to make money and spent too much time consuming, I ignored what I already knew worked for me.
I didn't trust that MY ART was within me. I thought it needed to be something that someone else says is sellable. I didn't let myself sink into that zone. Once I did, I felt comforted. All those other things fell away.
I don't care if I make money. I'm respecting my own opinions. I'm in love with my art.
Getting lost in what makes you happy is the ultimate step in finding your voice as an artist.
It's a trust fall into yourself.
That's it, that all I've got. Everyone's struggle is their own. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes, or maybe you need to make them yourselves. Either way, I hope this has helped you.
Until next time, visit me on Instagram to see the latest projects I've been working on.