I have a confession to make. Sometimes when I see art in galleries, museums or on-line I think to myself “I wish I painted like that.” There will be something about the piece – the palette or the subject matter or the composition- that makes me wish my work was more like the work I’m viewing.
I googled “artist’s voice” to see what kind of information would turn up about how artists develop their unique voice. There were lots of results and a quick skim of some of them echoed many of the same themes. These included:
– your voice develops over time
– you can influence your artistic voice by deciding what you like and shaping your work in that style
Forgive me, but I think this is bunk. When I started painting in high school I wanted to paint like Maxfield Parrish or Claude Monet. Of course, my work looks nothing like either of theirs. When I make authentic work, it comes out in my own Michelle way whether I want it to or not. This was true when I was just beginning and it’s still true. My artistic voice was intact from the get-go. It just didn’t exactly jibe with what I wanted it to be.
It’s like the first time I heard my speaking voice played back to me on a tape recorder when I was a kid. “THAT”S what I sound like?” The voice didn’t match what I thought I sounded like or how I wanted to sound. But it didn’t make the voice on the tape recorder any less mine.
So I think the real issue is not shaping our voice to control how it gets expressed. I think the issue is learning to accept (and maybe one day embrace) whatever our own authentic voice is.
I can’t make art that speaks with any visual voice except my own. So the work looks like I painted it. At least I know it belongs to me.