Don’t we all want to find our unique creative voice? And yet, we’re bombarded by images and ideas created by others that will invariably influence us, even if only unconsciously. How to tease out your own voice through all those conscious and unconscious influences? This episode is all about how to mine YOU.
Jess asked a question on the last live Q&A call that I think all creatives wonder about. We’re immersed with so many images and ideas floating around the internet, so how do you find and cultivate your own unique creative voice?
In the West, we have a really strong bias against learning by copying. In the East, on the other hand, there’s a long, respected history of creators studying with masters for decades before declaring and claiming their own, unique voice.
Not that one way of being is wrong and the other is right, but the prevalent idea in the West that we should each somehow magically emerge, fully-formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus, puts a lot of pressure on us! It simply doesn’t happen that way, so it does us a disservice to think it does.
The reality is, human beings are organisms designed to constantly grab inspiration from everything and everyone we interact with. Each of us is continually affected and influenced by our experiences and what we see/hear/feel. The sum total of all of your experiences go into making you who you are!
It’s only normal that creators want to try out what we see that excites us. This is not a problem. The problem only comes if you copy someone else’s work, in an attempt to be like them, and then claim it as your own — that’s known as plagiarism.
The goal, instead, is to integrate what you see and process it through your own filter.
The kind of cool thing is that even if you try to mimic what someone else does, the very fact of it coming through the filter of your unique being means that it will not be the same as the original — it will be stamped with you. And the process of attempting to recreate something someone else has created typically brings new questions and ideas bubbling to the surface, which often leads to a new direction entirely.
This is exactly what happened to me with my entire Dancing With Chaos/Less Is More series of paintings!
This entire series of paintings came about out of an attempt to recreate a technical effect in a painting I’ve been fascinated for years, a print hanging in my massage therapist’s office. One day in early January, I finally pulled out my brushes to see if I could create that same effect, and the process of creating that one painting then led me to down an entirely new road. The resulting series looks nothing like its original inspiration.
FYI, here’s the original painting:
And here are a few paintings from the series it spawned:
How does this evolution from copying/mimicking to your own unique voice happen? I think it comes down to noticing your curiosity. This is how I mine what’s me.
When I’m in the mindset of “What would happen if…?” — that place of curiosity — then I’m mining me. When I’m in the place of “What would happen if…?” then I’m not in the place of “How can I make this look more like [Person I Admire]’s work?”
Same goes for you. Even if you start out by mimicking, as long as you notice and follow your curiosity, you’ll be mining you, and expressing your own, unique voice.
Thanks for a great question, Jess!
Thanks for Listening!
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