Saturday, August 2, 2008

Where's my Voice? And can it be Crimson? (reblogged from 2008)

(As this topic is fresh again, I am putting this back out to the blogiverse)

So as an artist who has only been around the community for a couple of years, I have been discovering some very important things lately. I have determined, for myself, what is ok and what is not ok, when it comes to an artist's "voice". By voice, I mean their "style", their "look", their "thing". When you hear a friend on the phone, you recognize them for their unique voice I believe it is the same thing in art. Every artist has a voice, and as we become familiar with their work, we come to recognize their "voice" in the work they do.

There has been quite a bit of buzz in the online art community lately about an artist's work vs. their technique. For example, while you can obviously claim your artwork as your own, can you claim the technique it took to get there, as your own? If an artists publishes their technique, in a how to article, is the technique now "out there?" If they teach a class, is the technique fair game? And when does it go from a technique, to infringing on an artists personal "voice?"

I have just recently joined the ranks of marketing and selling my work. In this new forum, there are, obviously, far more "do's and don'ts" than just creating for myself. Are the pieces that I put out for sale uniquely my own "voice"? Well, I think I am still finding my own voice. So far, the only thing I notice that permeates almost all of my work is color. My undying and undeniable love for Golden's Quinacridone Crimson and Nickel Azo Gold. Sometimes together, sometimes alone, but always there.

After talking with an artist to get her views on technique and voice, her response has put this into perspective for me. My summary is this: If an artist works hard to create and develop their own "voice", then published technique or not, their work deserves to keep it's originality, and not compete in an over saturated market of copycat works. (I know the word copycat reeks of third grade tauntings, but it is the word that keeps coming to mind.)

So as I continue to search for my own personal style, I hope you will join me, and maybe be there when my "voice" sings, and is recognized for the first time.


tammy vitale said...

Interesting post. I'm wondering if one answer holds across all skills. In clay, for instance, I have taught making fish and others have made them for sale. And they have been very different than mine even having learned all my techniques. I think that's because clay really transmitts the energy of its maker. But if all the pieces are just about assemblage, I can see where it would make a great deal of difference. As when some folks put their names prominently across their 2D work because it is easy to download in its original format (2D). Very thought provoking! I hope some others respond to you. I'm interested in what they ahve to say.

Ophelia said...

Very Well Said.
Your art work is incredible.

Carol Wiebe said...

I’ve pondered this subject as well, and have not reached any definite conclusions. Is it a cultural thing, this longing for an original voice? Is it ego? Is it true that teaching others means that we will now have to compete with them in a given market, or are we merely selling together with them, and giving the buyer more choice? Does our spirit have anything to do with this? Does our spirit permeate our work, and draw those to whom it speaks (or sings)? I have been in the presence of work that inspires awe, where I felt I was basking in the energy it radiated. That is what I mean by spirit. Can that be copied?

dollproject said...

Ultimately, I see it as the teacher's responsibility to teach techniques and methods that are new and fresh but will not encroach on personal style.

I always try to adapt my classes so that they teach the methods I use without teaching the style I do them in. Just because I teach someone to sculpt a nose does not mean that everyone needs to sculpt my nose.

In addition, I don't like to be told there is only one way to do something, so I try to give my students options.

Work will be copied regardless of the approach you take, so if I am extremely attached to a set of methods or techniques, I won't teach them until I feel ready to let them go. I abhor stagnation, so moving on is usually easy for me.

And the approach of finding your voice is a good one. Ok, I have this pile of stuff I learned. How do I make it my own? Just asking yourself the questions gets the wheels turning.

Jessica Acosta

Blaiz said...

Here's the bottom line for me: If your finished piece can be mistaken for (or intentionally passed off as) the original artist's work, then you're misappropriating their voice. If you just use the techniques they taught you in your own way, then that's okay.

I took two classes with Michael de Meng. Does that mean I could even begin to recreate his exquisite little pieces? Not for a second! But I can use the techniques he taught to improve and enhance my own work, which I have done.

Having worked in legal for 22 years, it bothers me when some artists start throwing around legal threats even though they may not even be entitled to those remedies and protections under the law. It's just bullying people, plain and simple, and I don't like that.

Most artists wouldn't even want their work to look exactly like someone else's work! Of course, there are exceptions, but then those people can't really call themselves "artists," can they?

I love your work, btw, and I'll be revisiting your blog often!

Ami said...

Great question! As a writer, I consider this a lot. Clearly, I've been influenced by the techniques of others (professors, writers I admire, etc.), but ultimately when I write, something of *me* is instilled in that work. My *voice* makes it mine, even if the style or technique I use was originally developed by someone else. I think ultimately this comes through for any artist. Copycats or not, when you look closely you can always see the voice behind the work.

MoziEsmé said...

Well said . . .

PCarriker said...

I think this is something we all think about at one time or another. What is being inspired, what is copying. I recently had my first article published in CPS and I had several people email me to show what they had done with the techniques I used. You know what, none of them looked just like mine. I like to think that if you are publishing a how to article, you are ok with people using it. Even if someone's work starts out looking like the example work, it will evolve as that person's voice emerges. Mixed media art incorporates so many different things, a little of this, a little of that. I started doing portraits inspired by those who have gone before, Kelly Rae, Paulette Insall, etc, and have worked to let my own style emerge. I think art is a journey and we are here to help each other on that journey.