This article is by our guest author, Artspan member Dr. Mary-Louise Biasotti Hooper. See more of her work at hooperart.com.
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When I was a student of art, I kept hearing about “voice” but I did not really understand what my teachers were trying to express. What is “voice?” After all, I had a voice—I could talk. I eventually learned that in art voice is something different. Voice is your personal artistic style based on who you are as an artist. It is the expression of the inner intentions of your work. People who see your work know it comes from you and no one else. Voice sets you apart from other artists. It is what helps others recognize your collective body of work.
It involves the materials you choose (oil? Acrylic?), techniques you use, colors you choose for your palette, themes or the motifs in your work, your intentions for doing the work and more.
For one of my first painting lessons I selected a photo of the childhood home of my paternal grandmother in Italy. I went through the process of composing the picture, doing a value study, selected my palette and I began to paint. My teacher stopped me and asked, “Mary-Louise, what do you want to say by painting this picture?” The question stumped me. I thought I just wanted to paint the scene. Then I realized that I chose this subject because of its deep family meaning to me. I wanted to say how much I loved and missed my grandmother, as she had died years before. I wanted to commemorate her and preserve my roots.
Finding my voice as an artist would be a long road. I was not allowed to study art in college and did not study it until I was in my 60s.
A developed voice is vital if you want to be a professional artist. What is so terrific is that the voice is already within you, you just have to uncover it. The process shared here will help you do so. It is not an easy journey. There is no quick way. First you must learn the building blocks of your art, then practice the craft. It is a process that will repeat many times over in your career as you grow and reach for higher limits. Interestingly enough, part of the process is a period of feeling fear and incompetence because you must gain and practice new skills. Although not easy, try to acknowledge the fear and start to paint. It will fade in time.
Steps to Find Your Voice
1. Look at lots of art both the masters in museums and by studying art history and contemporary artists in galleries and art shows. What styles attract you?
2. Learn to paint in the techniques of those styles. You can try techniques from different styles.
3. Use different media—oil, acrylic, watercolor etc. Which fit the techniques and style that attracts you and expresses your art?
4. Combine the styles, techniques and media to create a style of your own.
5. Determine what your art says. Is there a theme in the subjects you choose? Does it tell a story? Does it preserve the environment? Does it capture a moment of life? Does it capture a memory? Does it say the world is crazy? Look for what expresses your emotions.
6. Develop an artist statement based on 1-5 above.
This is neither a quick nor easy process, but it is well worth your time.
I’ve heard people say they were too old to learn. And I say, nonsense!! You will only get old if you lose sight of your dreams and goals. The best life is one where you forget your age and live your life.
The magic is inside of you. You need to reach within and let it out.