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!