Beginning a new piece of artwork can sometimes be very intimidating. It is very bold action to take a blank piece of paper or canvas and decide I am going to create an image, translate a subject that I have some kind of personal connection with, render a visual image that is unique and let others view it to be judge by the critics of the world.
Sharing your artwork is a leap of faith. It is trusting that what you are creating is worthwhile no matter what your level of skill. Even sharing artwork with closest family and friends that we love and trust can sometimes be difficult. We are all critics and it is impossible to receive a positive response from everyone. How come when we voice an opinion we can understand that some people will disagree, but with visual expression we don’t always want to put ourselves on the line to be judged.
From my experience, the 22 years that I have been serious about making art as a way to express something within me that just needs to be fulfilled and communicated, I have spent a whole lot of time struggling to balance making art that will be accepted and liked by the people who view it and art that communicates who I am. It has only been in the past couple years that I have found comfort in the way I pick subject material and use it to communicate a small voice inside of me that has been waiting, ever so patiently, to be heard. Why now? How come it took so long? Is there some new technical skill in my art that I now possess that allows me to be able to connect with my art? The best answer that I can offer is trust. I have learned to trust that what I am expressing is the beauty, the pain, the hope, dreams and sometimes fears that I encounter in life.
So here is my advice on maybe getting a bit closer to finding your voice and letting it speak through your artwork. Pick subject matter that you have a connection with. Trust your instincts of what you like or are repelled by. Both can be valuable as subjects to represent in your art. When you pick your subjects take the time to analyze what is it that made you react.
All subjects will connect to some of the Elements of Art, (color, line, shape, texture, value, form, space), and the Principles of Design, (balance, contrast, unity, variety, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition.) You can see that with each of the examples from below I also am drawn to specific elements and principles that I feel are essential aspects of my subjects. This is another way to help you translate your subjects into your own personal artistic voice.
Here are some examples of subject material that I have found connections with and why I love using them in my artwork.
Flowers – color, organic shape, and contrast. That sometimes you find them in the most unusual places standing boldly alone and other times they blend in with the bunch.
Things that fly (butterflies, dragonflies, bird) – form, variety, balance, and movement. Dreaming of flying off to new adventures, loving the feeling of the wind and imagining what it might feel like to soar and glide with the wind carrying me on my journey. Knowing that even with flight you still need to come back to rest and be grounded.
Trees- line, texture, repetition, and pattern. Connection to nature and a world that is bigger than me. The give and take they bring to life.
Girls and Women- Form, value, unity, and variety. My connection with femininity and those who have influenced me, helped me grow, comforted me on my journey through the good and hard times. Bringing me to the understanding that essentially we all embrace our emotional nature and we try to do the best we can to love and share ourselves with others.
So now I hope you can translate this information to help you with your process. Set aside some time to search the Internet, magazines, books, and your photos, ECT. to find subjects that you are drawn to. Start your collection of photo references for your subject material. When you have a good collection separate them into categories and take a few minutes with each to select some elements of art and principles of design that jump out at you. Then get personal and write down what these subjects represent in your life. Don’t worry right away about your technical skills and how well you will be able to render your subject. That will comes with time and practice that you devote to your artwork. Be patient and trust in yourself.