Art 440: Artistic Voice

For this project, I began by making the matrix or web of things that influence me, inspire me, or appear in my art. The most obvious ones were probably my interest in patterns, nature (plants/animals), and more muted or pastel colors. Overall, I saw that I tend to prefer things that are soft and delicate, or cute and fun. Making this matrix was partly easy because I could look at recent work I’ve done in order to discover some trends, but after getting all of the obvious stuff out of the way, I had to continue thinking to come up with things that I still like and am interested in, but maybe haven’t quite come into my art as strongly as some other things. Perhaps this would be something to explore in the future?

My 16 daily sketches largely explored the main themes of pattern, plants and animals, and a soft or cute quality. When I was drawing most of these, I was thinking of them in terms of surface design and aimed to sketch a collection of related things that I could make into a repeating pattern, like the arctic animals or the little houses. Some sketches obviously turned out better than others (trying to simplify animals in particular was a challenge that didn’t always work out) but I tried not to think too much about whether or not they were good as I was drawing them. Sometimes I can stress about trying to make a piece perfect, but I knew that wasn’t the point of this exercise, so I tried to let go of that as best I could and just take the opportunity to explore many different ideas.

For the final paintings, I worked off of my daily sketches of the patterned cups, birch trees, tulips, and cats. My favorite is probably the cats. I think they turned out the best, even though they were probably the easiest to make, and they all have such attitude and personality that I think is really amusing. I also like the birch trees, it was fun layering textures and colors and playing around with adding more pink and blue hues into the trees than you would normally find. It’s definitely not perfect, but I do like all of the watercolor effects I was able to achieve, and I had fun painting it.

I’m kind of neutral about the patterned mugs. I decided to make them by cutting up paper painted with oils because I couldn’t get the desired effect with watercolor when I tried (but maybe it’s still worth revisiting at some point). I initially wanted to make more but found that they took far longer than I expected (as is often the case), so I ended up only being able to make three. I think they turned out fine, I just feel like they would be much better if there were more of them as I had originally planned. Since I now have a ton of extra paper, I guess I could always make more of them in the future.

My least favorite is the flowers. Something about them just doesn’t seem right. I think it’s the delicate background color and daffodil petals versus the really bright red and greens that came out when I added colored pencil. I actually wanted to paint the little houses for my 4th painting, but I was finding it very difficult to figure out how I wanted to approach them. I tried various combinations of watercolor, lineless or with pen linework or colored pencil, different color palettes, varying degrees of detail or simplification, etc. I just could never get them to look quite right, and I was finding it very difficult to maintain all of the detail and straight lines (I had a lot of crooked windows and doors) especially when I wanted the houses to have white accents or window frames, when I couldn’t work dark to light. Maybe I should have tried making them in oils, but with the paint thinned out a bit so I can still get some more watercolor-like texture, but at that point there wasn’t enough time left to deal with drying times.

While there were definitely some challenges that came with trying to define my style and artistic voice, and working off this to create a small series of work, I’m glad that I was able to create at least a couple paintings that I like, and I think it will be interesting to see how I can continue to try and work along these lines and further define what makes my artistic voice unique.

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