Recently I was contacted by an artist who asked me 'how did I decide on my style'? It is quite a difficult question to answer as there are so many moving parts to the creative process.
After giving their question some thought I relised that this conversation has many more layers to consider especially if we focus on the most recent activities of artists today. Just to be clear this is purely my own interpretation and opinion but it may be a thought you have had also.
Unless you have been living under a rock over the past few centuries it is virtually impossible not to be inspired by others. I feel 'we' the creative community are all somehow connected by the many visual references from past and present artists.
Being an artist emerging into the professional art world is about finding the lane which meets your artistic language which highlights who you are. Ironically a big part of this comes down to how much we do choose to remove ourself from the external influences of other art styles and finding the sweet spot of our own creative individuality.
This leads me to the following question(s). 'How do we settle on one particular art style'? What gives our art its individuality? How do we know if our art is original or influenced from what we are exposed to?
A big part of the artistic journey is to explore, experiment and use those that inspire us to open doors to our own creative potential. As you grow and evolve you begin to shed your skin to allow a transformation to take place. You begin to shift from the dependency of external influences and begin to harness your own creative signature.
In the last 10 years I have personally experienced the rise and fall of different art trends. It's like observing an incremental shift of what is in and what is now out, including the cushions to match.
One of the most important words of advice I was given was from an art dealer from New York. He said "art is not hung for the purpose of matching the furniture but instead it should be because you just want its presence. It is about creating a space around the art not the other way around".
So understanding that there is this fluctuating journey of art trends plus the ongoing need to make an income I can honestly say artists are split into two categories. One is no better than the other however one does ask the question 'are you staying true to your art'?
To stay true to your art is something almost O.C.D like. Some believe the creative journey is a deep connection to a universal energy and you are the conduit which it passes through as it lands upon the canvas. At times we may even be tempted to dabble in the creative insanity for the greater purpose of our artistic pursuit but in its simplicity it is also about having fun and enjoying the process free from the external dialogue of judgement.
I believe some artists choose to commit to an art style which evolves over years and years of repetition and then there are others who are like a chameleon. They are constantly adapting to the changing environment and thrive on the challenge of new and different things . Either, ither have a determination for a personal outcome.
So how do these art practices apply to the present day art market considering there are infinite possibilities for optimal exposure thanks to social media.
The creative industries seem to be morphing together. eg. artists who paint are now textile artists, illustrators are now fine artists, textile artists are now illustrators and so on. We are like the Goddess Durga with her many arms of choice weapons.
We have become a buoyant industry because no longer is there a famine instead it is one big artistic feast on offer to anyone who would like to own an original art piece.
It appears that overall the art industry has lost some of its social stratification. Art has become accessible to all budgets and it has become a marketplace for anybody and everybody. The floodgates are open and we are all doing our best to be seen within a 6cm x 6cm image area on our instagram feed. The concern is, has this now become a sure way to dilute our artistic pursuit when we are spending so much time promoting our wares to the world.
Are 'art trends' manufacturing a type of repetition which is fueling the addiction of being 'liked' and followed ?
Do we as artists find ourselves morphing into artistic styles just for the need to make money or be accepted by an invisible audience out there? Are these trends creating a complacency where one can hedge their bets for an income stream rather than gambling with the more radical aspect of our art practice?
I feel social media is one of the greatest gifts to the art community however are we now at risk of losing our playful innocence because we are becoming sucked into the vortex of comparison. We are being driven by many external influences which may be the death of our own exploration to finding out who we are as artists. That our raw style and technique is being overshadowed by the social media bombardment of a particular look and feel.
If we go back in history way before any type of media I have no doubt that artists had to juggle similar issues eg. the art which drives revenue as well as the art which feeds the creative soul. To marry these two areas together can be a match made in heaven however not all artists are in it for the 'art of business'. Some would rather stay removed from such pressures and pay their way with alternate employment. This type of choice has a liberatory feel to it and one which thrives on the daily pursuit of just the art rather than these external demands we have discussed.
So the original question was ' how do you find your art style'? As I mentioned before there are so many layers to this discussion. In this post today I shared my thoughts on the external influences of some of the day to day challenges we face as we try to combine income and the demands of social media. How do we stay true to our art without becoming part of a cookie cutter process but most of all how do we choose to honour our individuality and find the space to harness our visual dialogue.
In my next blog post we will go inward to discuss a more intimate aspect of discovering your individual 'style' through mark making. I will share some of the advice I have been given by other respected artists. I will also discuss my own limitations, habits and mistakes which I feel has hindered and elevated my journey as an artist.
Next Blog Post: Make your Mark matter