Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Who Am I? By Karen McGovern

As I read Mary Jane Dodd's post from Valentine's Day, I realize it is the perfect prelude to today's post.  THANKS, MARY JANE!

I have been following a couple threads online, and found myself contributing comments to a post by an artist who was asking about finding her "artistic voice". She was worried about this, about creating a body of work that was reflective of who she is as an artist, and a body of work that would be recognized as "hers".  We've touched on this topic before here at LMAJ, but I figure any post that gets a flood of replies (over 60 in just a few hours) meant that it is a topic that many of us are very interested in.

We all have, on the tips of our tongues, artists whose work we instantly recognize on sight, whether the artist name is listed or not.  I just attended a fabulous art, jewelry and antique show over the past weekend and found myself zeroing in with laser precision on works instantly recognizable to me.  Oh, that's a Calder!  Tiffany!  Lalique! Iconic creations from famous jewelers and artists.

Calder, Tiffany and Lalique......sigh......

I'm no Lalique. But I do feel I have, after many years, found what I consider to be my "voice" artistically.  

What does that mean, and more importantly, how do we as artists get to this point? Hmmmmmm. Hard to explain, actually.

What does it mean to have a "body of work"?  Words like "cohesion" and "line" are often used when discussing jewelry of a particular artist. Artists that are well-known create works of a certain recognizable style.  You know a Susan Lenart Kazmer design on site (at least I do...).  Richard Salley is another artist I can pick out of a crowd of work. (AND, completely off topic, I just purchased my first Salley design and I am VIBRATING WITH EXCITEMENT and holding my breath continually until it arrives. EEEEP!)  

Richard Salley and it's MINE, MINE I TELL YOU!!!!! HAHAHAHA!

I read this quote from Cynthia Tinapple of Polymer Clay Daily's Studio Mojo Newsletter (thanks Ronna Sarvas Weltman for posting this). Cynthia makes a very important point here...."How would you describe your work and your intentions?  Can you say why you are obsessed with the colors, the patterns, the objects you choose to make? Thinking about the "why" of your work can be the first step toward getting your studio mojo in gear." This resonates with me, because we all, whether we know it or not, have a reason (or reasons) we create.  Initially, that reason may be as simple as creating just to see if we can. Early in my jewelry design journey, I created randomly, learning techniques and basic stuff. This is what we all do.  But, as we evolve and grow as artists, I believe that finding the "why" of your work will lead you directly to your "voice" or style.

I always called myself a schizophrenic artist. I don't like to create the same thing twice, and I am always trying new techniques.  But, this doesn't mean I have a random, unconnected body of work. Far from it.  BUT, early on, I worried about this just like you may be doing now. Was my work "cohesive" did I have what a gallery might consider a "line"? I was extremely envious of those artists I so admired that did have an obvious, recognizable style....until I wasn't.

For me, the moment I "clicked" creatively is when I really started creating according to the "why" of my work.  I create jewelry inspired by nature.  That is a simple, simple statement that a gazillion artists also give when asked what inspires them.  But, for me, it is the true reason I create.  And, I have hit on some key design elements that have become the underlying thread--the "melody" if you will--of my work.  And, without even really "realizing" it, I found that I did, in fact, have a story to tell, and a body of work that reflects this story. Figuring out why you create what you create, why a particular technique or material blows your skirt up or makes your hair stand on end will pretty much pave the way for you in your journey to find your voice.

A recent design of mine that reflects where I am at the moment, exploring
spirals and the continuous flow of nature and our world. 

To inject a bit of a giggle here...artists are often asked to create an "Artist Statement" for themselves. This is sometimes required when entering shows, etc. I find that writing an artist statement is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT and very frustrating.  How can you condense your entire journey as an artist into a few sentences? AND, many artist statements I read sound so FAKE to me and also seemed to be taken WAAAAAY too seriously. That's when I found the Artist Statement Generator. HA!!!!

This is my screensaver...for reals.

Moving on....

They say you find love when you stop looking for it. I believe the same thing applies here. Finding your style will be impossible if you over think it or try to force it. Take classes if you can afford it. Scour the Internet for videos and tutorials offered by artists you love.  READ, READ, READ.  There are SO MANY GREAT BLOGS AND WEBSITES that offer wonderful advice. Join an art/jewelry forum or groups online.  LMAJ is great, Creative Bead Chat is great, Aspiring Metalsmiths is GREAT. These are all found on Facebook and are filled with generous, wonderful artists that will answer your questions and welcome new artists with open virtual arms. AND, be aware that your style and voice will evolve and CHANGE over time. Embrace the process and the changes!  Who you are artistically today may be nothing like who you are in a few months or years.

AND, back to what Mary Jane touched on in her last post.  If you create from the heart, you cannot go wrong.  Make what YOU like, what makes YOU happy. If you can do this, without distracting yourself with outside influences or worries about "trends" or fear, you will create something that is truly reflective of who you are and the story you want to tell.  Don't rush it, don't obsess on it.  Don't take yourself too seriously. Respect yourself and your work. BE PATIENT. You will find yourself reaching for that one "thing" over and over, creating with a flow you didn't even know you had. You will find that each piece you create is another sentence or chapter in your story to tell.  You'll get there, I promise.  Now, go make something AMAZING!


Karen Z said...

Altho I relate to Calvin & Hobbes most of all . . . my style is "from the heart, to the heart." As you said.

Kristin Oppold said...

I loved this Karen. You have a great conversation pattern in your blog. I find that I feel like you are sitting across the table at Starbucks having a conversation with me. I recently wrote my kind of artist statement. I know it needs tweaking. I did it as if I was having a conversation with myself. I was very validating.

Lynn said...

This is beautifully written and very inspiring. A wonderful writer AND artist!

Janet Bocciardi said...

Great post! It was that last paragraph that really spoke to me. It's what I do most of the time and the joy shows I think. It's when sales are slow that doubt creeps in. I love getting the reminder from a new customer or old that I'm still on track.

Nan Smith said...

Thanks for this post, Karen. I'm one of those who is looking for my artistic voice. I think I'll follow your advice and stop looking but just keep making what I like and it will emerge! Probably others might be able to define my style but I'm still struggling although am closer than I was a year ago.

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