It’s really not important if you want to create great art, good art, or just-for-the-heck-of-it art. The last thing I want to imply in my “Great Art” blog series is that great art is automatically the goal.
Maybe yes, maybe, no—either way it’s not a judgment, it’s a description of one possibility.
However, if great art is a deep yearning inside you, I want to make sure you don’t think of it as a futile exercise in subjective reality or the opinion of others.
a place to lean into.
If having your work make an impact is important to you, there is one other, inescapable requirement you can’t ignore: your artistic fingerprint.
The irreplaceable you
All of us carry a deep-seated awareness that we are unique. As Mr. Rodgers slid in or out of his sweater, he liked to remind us “you’re special just the way you are.”
And yet, for a whole host of artists, aligning that awareness with their artwork seems to be out of the question.
How many still-lifes have you seen that could have been painted by any of a hundred different artists?
How many have you seen that could have only been painted by one?
And which do you remember?
What does it take to bring the irreplaceable you into your art?
The battle for creative license
For some artists, their fingerprint has always been with them, from the beginning. They know it and others see it.
For others an artistic fingerprint is not so obvious. I remember one woman coming up to Jason Horejs in a workshop to ask him if she had one. I was peeking over her shoulder, looking at her portfolio where image after image was indelibly hers, and I was amazed that she couldn’t see this.
For others, one look at the dozens of pieces of artwork on their website and you’ll see an artist all over the place, with one style per piece.
These artists, I’ve discovered, are fairly prickly when you talk about an artistic fingerprint. Immediately, they start defending their right to creative freedom, as if you’ve just told them they have to draw the same 3 pears, arranged in the same way in a chipped blue bowl, for the rest of their lives.
For other artists, their creativity is on an indulgent roll with sculpture vying for space with the oil paintings vying for space with the prints vying for space with the jewelry… you get the idea.
And in the majority of these cases, it’s not that there’s a problem with what is, only with what the artist assumes can happen with what is: sustainable, long-term, commercial success.
Not going to happen.
What might happen is sporadic sales and lots of ohhs and ahhs from friends and family, which only strengthen the artist’s resolve to keep what they see as a right to unshackled creative freedom.
And then there are artists who do want that signature style, do want their work to have an impact and their vision to have a following, only they aren’t sure how to go about it.
What if you don’t know, or have, a fingerprint and want one?
This is exactly the predicament one of my private clients had when she first came to me. She was savvy enough to recognize that she needed one if her career was to expand.
And she was genuinely confused about what it might be.
Here are the steps we took:
1. Looked at her work and found the pieces that consistently drew a response from viewers.
2. Lined these pieces up and studied them for common elements in areas of color, painting technique, subject matter, perspective, etc.
3. After identifying the common elements, the artist began the hard work of asking herself “what did it mean to do X” (in one case it was using her palette knife to create spider-web lines between areas on the canvass).
4. Asking “what does it mean?” included writing exercises, keeping a dream journal, an art journal beside her in the studio. Paying attention to what her own sub-conscious was revealing as she set up the direct intention to understand her artistic fingerprint.
5. Finding words to describe the common elements in her work as if they related to a common theme (which, surprise, surprise, they did.)
Each of these steps was incorporated in a dialogue with her coach (me), which is critical to the process. Otherwise, you are asking the eye to see the eye.
If you don’t have a coach, choose someone in your community whose artistic sensibilities you trust and who will understand what you are going for. Someone who will not use this as an opportunity to show off or become a critic, but simply a sounding board for your own developing awareness.
You’ll find your artistic fingerprint is seamlessly part of all that you know, in your heart, to be true about your work.
A couple more notes
Artistic fingerprints, aka your artist voice, hold this intriguing paradox: like the fingerprints on our fingers, they are at once unique and universal–always a fingerprint yet never the same.
They also represent one of the creative responsibilities of choosing to be an artist—“responsibility,” not as duty or code for stiff upper lip, but responsibility to share our truth, as only we can know and experience.
What’s magical is when you give yourself permission to mine your own depths for authenticity, and that which is truly yours, you lead the way for others to know themselves in equal measure. Whether or not they take you up on that is their business. Yours is to always shine the light on your true self.
I’d love to know what challenges have come from your journey with your artistic fingerprint…
P.S. Next up is a series on some futuristic technology and how it’s impacting the art world.
I’m only now researching, so stay tuned and get ready to suit up!
Written by Ariane Goodwin, Ed.D.
Posted under Great Art, Inspiration, Insight
Tags: art, art career, visual artist, artist, visual art, artists, visual artists, fine art, artist process, painting, color, Jason Horejs, artistic fingerprint, artist voice, great art, art journal, painting technique, creative responsibility, Mr. Rodgers
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