The You in Your Work
The creating of artwork, in a sense has no boundaries. It is so vast, as an artist you really must make sure you have a true understanding of more than just technique,but also yourself. For it is yourself you are painting or sculpting or expressing while venturing into any artistic medium. Every time you create something. Loosing sight of the you in whatever you are creating, removes the soul of your work.
Good technique on its own, while important, is nothing without what you bring to the table in the creative process. If four people paint the same subject matter, all being required to use the same techniques, same pallet and the same materials, on the same day and with each other, you will still have four different results. Even if one is asked to paint the subject first and the next artist is asked to copy the first’s work and so on, each of the four paintings will still have differences.
These differences could have something to do with years of experience. They could have to do with being left or right handed. They could even have to do with the artist’s height and thus the slight difference in vantage point. But it also has to do with things much deeper. Sensitivity to color, atmosphere, age, mindset, confidence, passion, needs, reasoning, relationships, beliefs and so on. These are all like power tools of creativity. Technique is the work bench. Materials are what you express yourself with and inspiration and imagination? That’s what powers the tools.
The greatest technique in the world only allows for expanded ability and we all know there are many people in the world with an ability to do something that do not even try or do not even know they carry an ability within themselves to do so. Even for those with born talent, good technique is learned. But the understanding of expressing who you are, is felt. I suppose one may have to learn that too, but there is a clear difference here.
There’s no doubting it. If you are trying to break through a plateau as an artist, first ask yourself about the you in your artwork. When a client purchases a painting of mine, I know without question they are not just purchasing a picture of the Piedmont, they are purchasing my version of it. My personality is all wrapped up in that work of art and my best advise to those giving this some thought is - yours should be too. If you take a painting class, you should first have a respect for the teacher’s technique and then the hardest part is understanding that you should not be there to become a clone, but rather, a better version of you. That is the only way to truly grow as an artist.
What you bring to your artwork defines the narrative. Sometimes the story is more apparently realistic, such as a boy and his dog or kids at the beach. But in artwork less realistic, such as contemporary genres, the narrative is even much more about the artist. Make no mistake, the narrative had better be there, for without it, you’ll just have lifeless rendering and we all may have heard - render long enough and you’ll render yourself useless.
I always love when actors are being interviewed and the host asks them what they were trying to bring to their roll. No one just says - me. Think of the most iconic characters of stage and screen and ask yourself this. Are the words “I’ll be back” from the 1984 movie the Terminator, iconic because of the words themselves or because an Austrian body builder, turned actor, spoke them in his thick native accent? Well, and then back up his words, but you have my point. Songs get sung and hits are made and then others come along and cover the same song and another hit can be made or not. You make it your own. This is what makes your work relevant and worth placing your name on it.
It is what others see in your work and I’ll even take this a step further to make my point. Take a chain of restaurants, walk in any of them and there is no surprise to what you will find, because they are all the same and sometimes this familiarity has its merits. But take your favorite local restaurant and ask yourself why you like it? Even if they are both just cooking burgers, the answer becomes clear. That’s the narrative aspect. The you in what you do. Don’t miss it, you’re worth having around.