Monday, 4 April 2016

What is Your Personal Style as a Crafter and Artist?

Now isn't that the most difficult question to answer if you - like me - feel that you are someone who loves variety and constantly trying out new techniques and....well, styles?

But the question is being asked (right at this moment by Calico Craft Parts who are having a call out for one new DT member) and I guess this is a good time to face it (especially as I have been struggling with it for quite a long time now). So this is going to be a post where I talk a lot about art, about how we end up struggling with some of what is part of being an artist or creative person and also a bit more about myself than usual (even though not that much, because still I prefer to have my projects speak for themselves) - so if you want to just take a look at what I think represents my style, scroll down to the images and feel free to skip my blurb instead.

To all those who decide to read on and learn a bit more about the artist within us all and also about me: I would love it if you shared your thoughts and your own projects on this matter because this is - after all - what we all ask ourselves at some point: is my work recognisable by others? Does it inspire others and does it make a difference? Am I (still) on the right path?

So I invite you to join in and share some of your thoughts on this or maybe even a past or actual project that you think represents you best (by either leaving a comment or using the link up at the bottom of this post). Please, consider my long post being an invitation and icebreaker (and maybe you can even relate to some of what I write about):


A lot of people tell me that I do have a style that can be recognised easily but if you asked me I would say that I have no "trademark" style that can be immediately assigned to me and my artwork. Which is something that often worries me as I feel I am lacking originality and an "own language" as an artist.

I guess this feeling originates not only from the fact that I still love to take on new techniques (and there are really a lot out there ;) but also that I have always been good (and felt safe!) at imitating styles and already started doing so when I was a kid. Back then I drew almost every day and tried to copy the illustrators from my favourite childhood books (like from "Brambly Hedge" from Jill Arklem or the "Bullerbü" books from Astrid Lindgren) and later the paintings from H.R. Giger for example.
All of that was good exercise but sadly I had noone who encouraged me to explore my own creative voice as an artist. Especially not at art university (which honestly rather helped with making me even more confused and feeling lost and insecure when it comes to developing your own style as an illustrator or painter).

So when I finally became an arts teacher my main goal was always to encourage my pupils and students to trust in their own artistic "vocabulary" and "writing skills" in the first place and rather adapt the techniques and knowledge I gave them than follow it too closely. I loved it (and my students loved it too) when I could "read them" in their paintings and that still is something that is so much more important to me than any painting skills when it comes to real art that is authentic and speaks to me and shows the artist as well as her or his view on the world we live in.

As young kids we do not doubt or even question our own skills and ways of picturing  what is important to us: mommy, daddy, siblings, auntie Mim, our pets, our home, those marvellous and wonderful trees, birds, skies, clouds and flowers out there... our drawing sheets are our universes and we reinvent the world on them without having to do any sketches first or think about where to put the first line. Our hands are directed by our hearts (instead of knowledge) and we draw and paint what we are touched by most - the wonders of the world at our doorsteps! And we manage to capture that magic in our drawings and paintings effortlessly...we do not even notice or know about our "divinity" at that age. (Picasso often said he wished he could paint like a child again - boldly and without any fear of failure. Because he knew what we lose while growing up).

Later - at the age of thirteen or fourteen - we realise that what we draw doesn't look "natural" (because at that age our awareness for threedimensionality develops - only to give us a hard time as we can now see where we are "failing" trying to capture it on two-dimensional substrates) . There are these things art teachers and experts tell us about such as perspective, shading, proportions and other obstacles that take away this magical process of creating freely - without any fear of messing up. Things that have to be understood and learned - and which most of the time only lead to disappointment (especially for those who don't have any teachers or mentors who guide them through these times with understanding and care). It feels as if with the wink of an eye everything we loved about being creative has been turned into something worthless and - which is even worse - false. That is the time when the majority give up on drawing and painting and live their lives thinking of themselves that they simply suck at art and lack that obviously needed "talent" (which simply isn't true).

My "talent" - as already mentioned before - is that I can quite easily and quickly copy or adapt to styles and take on new techniques...but that isn't helpful with developping my own visual language at all. So much for the praised talent then. ;)

Therefore having to choose three projects that might serve at representing "me" or "my style" wasn't easy and at first I thought that it was even impossible, but it made me browse the projects I have been doing so far and at least search for some linking qualities - and that was an eye opener to me because for all that time I had been thinking I hadn't focussed on developping "my own artistic language" (because I was attracted to and distracted by all the loads of cool techniques and styles out there that I needed to try and learn) when in fact I had done so. Only differently than I had thought I would. ;)

Here are the three projects I chose (or "found") that I feel really represent ME and what I love to do most:


This "Forest Love" stacked ATB shrine is a project (done for Calico Craft Parts as their Guest Designer a few weeks ago. Thanks again for having me, ladies!) that brought back to me some of the skills and techniques I thought I had lost or that I couldn't relate to anymore: my love for really tiny, fiddly, detailed painting - and I could also combine it with my love for the forest (or nature in general - especially insects), found objects and shadow boxes and shrines.

When I discovered Calico Craft Parts' MDF Mini Insect Wood Shapes these "spoke" to me immediately - and the project built up almost on its own. And I found myself creating with that security and joy of a kid (well, at least very close to that).


My "Wizard of Oz" shadow box also shows my love for using found objects, for creating scenes like in a toy theatre (I have a small collection of these btw), for thinking out of the box (and using a broken remote control to make the wizard's machine). Story telling is something I very much love seeing with others' projects - and it is what I love to do too when creating.The Wizard of Oz and Toto are hand drawn - and again really tiny. I also remember that I had a real good "me-time" (totally forgetting about the world around me for hours) while creating this one.




"A Dog's Dream" shows my dog Bluna dreaming of the things she loves most: chasing crows (although it is pretty obvious that the crows trick her every time), running up and down steep hills at high speed and getting her favourite  dog biscuits (that - thanks to the manufacturer - have the shape of bones of course). And - yes - it is a shadow box again. The hills, crows, Bluna and all the other things in it are hand drawn and painted and the shadow box was done following a wonderful online class held by lovely Sarah Hand at Soul Food 2014.

I found that really often I end up with doing shadow boxes and shrines. And these boxes all tell very personal stories....about the things I deeply love and that bring me true joy. And even though you can say that these shadow boxes look all very different in style and making, they all have in common that they had to be shadow boxes and that they had to tell a story and display something that touches me deeply and is dear to my heart. They are like a mirror - and the image of me I can see in them is one I can relate to and that I can also love.

And I guess that is what we all aim for when we create - to find ourselves in our work. And to love what our work reflects of us.

Thank you to all who read this far! Those who know me know that I usually don't do this kind of mammoth posts - and these will definitely remain the exception. But the issue about ones personal style has been bothering me for ages it feels. And from what I know and read I assume I am not alone. ;)

Here's the link up - for those who want to join in and share their personal hunt for their "own artistic style". I will keep this collection open for the next two months. Let's find out who is out there ;)


Thank you for stopping by and taking the time!
Hugs and happy crafting!
Claudia 
xxx


22 comments:

  1. Great post, Claudia! Your projects are always fantastic. You would be such an asset to the team - best of luck!!! <3

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  2. Uff ;-)ja, die Frage nach meinem eigenen persönlichen Stil zu beantworten ist nicht einfach, Außenstehenden fällt es leichter. Ich denke, es hängt damit zusammen, ob es auch das ist, was man in sich selbst sehen will und kann. Ich habe bspw. immer Schwierigkeiten mich in eine Schublade stecken zu lassen, viele Dinge inspirieren mich und kreativ zu sein heißt für mich in erster Linie, wie auch bei dir, immer Neues ausprobieren, egal ob grungy, bold & bright oder romantic. Der Reiz des Unentdeckten ist immer da :-)! Nach 'Kochrezepten' arbeite ich eher weniger, obwohl es damit sicher leichter und schneller funktionieren würde. Geschichten zu erzählen, Botschaften vermitteln und andere an der kreativen Begeisterung teilhaben zu lassen ist die Basis für mich. Mein Lieblingsspruch in diesem Zusammenhang: "Der kreative Erwachsene ist ein Kind das überlebt hat." Also älter werden ist unvermeidbar, erwachsen werden ist optional - ich habe mich für das Kind entschieden ;-) das versucht, immer mit Spaß und Freude dabei zu sein und völlig unvoreingenommen an die Dinge heran zu gehen. Mal schauen ob ich die 'original' Kerstin in meiner Raupensammlung finde! LG Kerstin xoxo

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    1. Die "Kochrezepte" hat man uns versucht auf der Kunstuni beizubringen. Hat für mich nie funktioniert (weswegen ich auch mehrmals bei Seminaren durchgefallen bin...lol).
      Ja, die "Forscher" unter uns Kreativlingen können nie lange bei einer Sache bleiben...da lockt so vieles mehr, nicht wahr?

      Danke, dass du deine Gedanken hier mit mir (und den Lesern) teilst!

      Bussi,
      Claudia xxx

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  3. I love your "mammoth post", Claudia! For all what you said about art and the sad loss of it when we grow, for the part of yourself you give here too. I'm very uncomfortable with this thought I have no style, no recognizable style. But I can face it easier now I definitely stopped learning academic "beaux arts" classes, in which I felt like in prison (maybe because I was too old when I started...).
    Though I know what I don't like at all, it seems I have so much to discover, thus to try!
    I share your passion for shadow boxes: I love the idea that a part of our inner world, emotions and thoughts can take life for a while in a tiny space.
    Thanks for this post, Claudia, thanks for sharing (I will think about it with the inzlink!).
    Hugs, Lys.

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    1. I felt the same as you at art university, Lys. Being in prison and made feeling small and never skilled enough. And I was young back then - but obviously already pighead enough to follow my own path - even if that cost me several semesters...lol.

      And you nailed it for me: passion! That's what true art is all about and what makes art "speak" to others. :)

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me and the readers!

      Hugs,
      Claudia xxx

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  4. Great post Claudia! I often watch my 8 year old twins draw/make things and almost feel jealous of them. They're so free in their making.......i guess not having a care in the world help!
    Good luck with Calico! :) x

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    1. Thank you so much, Lesley!
      Yes, we have any reason to be jealous of our kids, haven't we? ;)
      xxx

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  5. Dear Claudia ... your post touches me deeply because it is really personal. I found you a long time ago when you posted something 'halloweeny' which you had hand-drawn and had ghostly trees in the background. It spoke to me because it told a story and was very striking and has stayed in my thoughts. Since then, I have usually recognised your unique style, which is what your type of artwork is all about. It tells a story. You want to know more about each piece and it draws you in. I would have loved to have been one of your students who was allowed to develop his or her own style unencumbered. I loved art at school and felt very happy when I was in class. Since then, it has been left dormant for many years, but crafting has become all encompassing and since retirement, a joy for every day of my life. I would love to share my own style but do not have a blog or a website. I read recently that we must not try to live in the shadow of others, but to do what makes us happy and if that includes learning new techniques and running with them for a while, then that is what we must do. My mother (many years gone now) used to say "You have to learn, to teach" and her philosophy was to pass on what we know to others, which you have done beautifully. You have a very special gift and a unique and beautiful style and I am very grateful to you for sharing that with us. Long may it continue. It is such a pleasure getting to know you remotely! Carol x

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    1. I think you can upload images directly to the inlinkz...so an own blog or website isn't needed for sharing, Carol. ;)

      Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts. And for the quote too!

      Yes - we should never forget to do what makes us happy - especially when it comes to creativity. I don't like to call it teaching - rather sharing experiences. And giving hints. So that the teaching is part of it, but not the main goal as everyone is free to take and learn what he or she feels is good for them. ;)

      Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and that advice your mom gave you!

      Hugs,
      Claudia xxx

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  6. This is the quote I read recently Claudia:
    Stop comparing your journey with everyone else’s. Your journey is YOUR journey, NOT a competition. You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself. You are competing to be the best you can be. If you want to measure your progress, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.”

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  7. Hi Claudia, I loved reading your in depth post . I have on many occasions over the years been told I have a recognisable style. I love trying new techniques and styles but staying true to me. However if someone was to ask me what my style is, I would struggle to put it into words. I think this is because I like to experiment and use techniques my way not an exact copy of someone else so to speak. I love grungy, steampunk, CAS, collage . I think the main thing is that as long as we enjoy it that's all that matters; enjoying the process. I don't think we should strive for perfection as art is very subjective and one persons view of perfection is different to,the next. From someone who cannot,draw for toffee it's fantastic that I can express myself artistically in other ways and not be judged, or not worry if I am judged too much. I do feel in the creative world we are looking for too much of the likeable factor rather than how much we enjoyed the doing . Art is our creative way of expressing ourselves in whatever way we choose. Loved reading this post. Tracy x

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your personal thoughts on this, Tracy!

      Yes - staying true to ourselves is important! (it cost me several semesters at art university because I refused to paint in the style of my teachers...lol).

      Enjoying the process is important too. And I so agree with you on what you say about perfection. Perfection most of the time is something that rather serves at making us unhappy with our results (as in our own eyes we are never perfect, right?) than helping. But of course you shouldn't always take the easy road because then your journey as an artist just stops at the point you have come to.

      Expressing ourselves takes courage - as you are always showing part of yourself via your projects. Which makes you vulnerable too.

      So glad you liked my post!

      Hugs,
      Claudia xxx

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  8. A great post Claudia and I think you have touched on something here. I too love trying different ideas and techniques so it is hard to define a specific style like some people I can think of. However, I have a love of making books and this is what I am mainly known for. I don't want to put myself in a box though as I also love to do mixed media and to go where my heart takes me. A thought provoking post, I will sort out some of my work that I really connect with and add a link. Thanks for sharing and good lucky with your application if you apply for Calico Craft Parts DT.

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    1. Yep. Boxes to be put into aren't a good thing!
      Following ones heart is so important - as we all put a little bit of love into our projects (besides labour and precious me-time) so they become "ours".

      There are a lot of great artists out there who have found one specific topic they focus on and vary throughout their artistic journey - and as long as they do not just "repeat" themselves their oeuvre can be very touching and intriguing to look at (and to learn from).

      And then there are those "allrounders" like you and me. Maybe we will some day find "our topic". Maybe we will stay "explorers". Who knows.
      Style comes along with our artistic journey all by itself. So I wouldn't focus too much on developing one on intention.

      Thank you very much for joining in the discussion and sharing your thoughts!

      Hugs,
      Claudia xxx

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  9. So you wrote this whilst looking into my head right? You must have done Claudia as I feel exactly the same! We are great chameleons, hungry for new techniques and styles but then not necessarily identifiable to ourselves (though others will tell us they recognise our work). And it seems in this creative industry that people find a certain style or design (be that stitching and dark colours, painted backgrounds with a focal word/image, certain colours, tags or ATC's, or particular products for example) and stick to it rigidly. And they get recognised for it. And if the 'people at the top' like it they get snapped up to do lots more of the same. So do we continue to be magpies or find one thing and stick to it or continue to change and explore? I'd love to say the last is best but I've got a feeling the second is the one we have to use to 'be successful' and get noticed. Still, you made me think long and hard this morning as I struggled with a card design that just wasn't working and now I know what I do best. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for that and for challenging me to do that thinking. I hope your soul searching is just as successful and you find your happy place in art. Your work is always beautiful but it's about you feeling good at the end of the day. Take care my friend xxx

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    1. Thank you, Jenny. Email to you is out. xxx

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  10. You know how much I enjoy your work and also being on your team. Tour art always makes me think outside the box (egg crate anyone?) and delve into unusual objects that when put together create a whole. This post was perfect for me because I too have been thinking long and hard about my own personal art style and I still am clueless, but sure am having fun trying new things and revisiting old. Before I add a design the the gallery I will have to look through my art and see what draws me in the most. Thank you for this post Claudia! You rock! Hugz to you muffin! ~Niki

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    1. Thank YOU for your reply, Niki, and I hope you will enjoy revisiting your older projects. I often find that I recognise aspects of "me" in them that I tend to leave behind because there are so many other new things to try out and make "my own". It is good to go back to the roots at times as we can go back to techniques or styles we love and give them a new look with all the other new skills and techniques we have taken on in the meantime. ;)

      BIG HUG back! XXX

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  11. Well, at last I found a bit of time to read your post quietly and entirely... Finding it very interesting and meaningful Claudia.
    Like you, though I don't have all your art skills and didn't follow any art course at school since I was an engineer first instead, I feel I have many interests and no particular style, losing my mind and my own personality sometimes I guess by being so much inspired everywhere and by so many persons on crafty blogland!
    But it is absolutely a very GOOD question I'm really ask myself at the moment... So thanks for this great post, and all what you share about you deeply.
    Regarding your three wonderful shadow and shrine boxes, I can only say that I adore them, all of three are just amazing samples of your art.
    And this is your best style to my yes since I'm not much Steampunk finally, which is your other part of yourself and own style that works so best for you!...
    But I LOVE your artwork showcased today.
    Wishing you good luck for your application to the Craft Calico DT, you would be a great addition!! Hugs Corinne xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, Corinne!

      Honestly I don't think it needs being very skilled in the first place to create good (=meaningful) art, but the bravery to put one's heart and soul into ones artwork. Art that "speaks" to me almost never is that which shows a lot of technical skill but that which shows the artist behind the piece and something that is important to her or him.

      Thanks for the wishes on the DT Call too! Bisous! xxxx

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  12. I can't believe I have missed this post! I am always wondering about my own style - so I am afraid I cannot give you any link to my work. But I just *might* give you a link to cards that are NOT my style (will blog in a few days) as an elimination.

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Thank you so much for your visit and especially for taking the time to leave me a short comment! xxx

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