An Artist’s Voice Update

Recently, I posted a series on An Artist’s Voice, and I want to give you an update.

What preceded these posts and headed me in the direction of seeking out my own voice was a class I took with Elizabeth Barton.  When the subject came up I said I sometimes think an artists voice is, in part, a marketing device and in part a decision to follow a certain path, rather than a natural inclination. She dubbed me as the class philosopher and the class proceeded from there.

Before the workshop, one assignment was to  investigate the work of  artworks that we liked and print them out.  During classes we viewed many of these to see what it was we liked about them and from this exercise, make an effort to incorporate the things we most liked into our own art and build from there a design for our next piece of fiber art.

Last Saturday I attended a lecture  by Leni Weiner called:

“What is a Voice, Why do I Need One, and How do I Find it?

She also wrote a series on the subject and you can read it by following these links. Specifically, Leni outlined  Ten Things To Think About To Help You Find Your Voice:

1. Quilt what you know.

2. Embrace what you love.

3. Abandon what you dislike.

4. Trust your instincts.

5. Develop your own working style.

6. Decide on your message.

7. Create a thread of continuity.

8. Engage in quiet reflection.

9. Work For Yourself.

10. Expect your voice to change, evolve, grow.

I was most impressed with her honesty about the subject.  Leni asserted that, in part, there is an aspect of voice that is market driven.  Galleries want to see a consistent style before they want to represent you. Jurists seek out works that are recognisable when they are choosing pieces for exhibition.

And she affirmed my belief that an artist must make a decision about what she wants her work to look like.  It’s not simply an innate style that necessarily emerges as if by magic. Now, it may happen for some people that they immediately and consistently work in one style, but I suspect that most of us start out by exploring the many avenues of possibility, which includes practicing a multitude of techniques, before we can even begin to determine how we want to express our own voice or work in a consistent style. (Of course, inherent in this statement is that voice and style are two different concepts, which I acknowledge, but for the most part, when I hear or read about voice, I’m most often hearing or reading about style as well. They are not so easily separable in our common usage.)

In a timely fashion, Elizabeth has updated her views on the subject in a recent blog post: Developing A Style.

As for me, I’ve thrown any angst I ever had about developing my own voice to the wind, favoring to simply enjoy the making of my art.

After the lecture, which was the first part of a VT/NH/Maine SAQA regional meeting. someone took some pics you might want to see. Some are of me with some of my newest pieces of textile art.

So I leave you with lots of links to follow up on packed with good stuff, so go check them out!

It’s Friday again, so I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays, another always interesting blog!



An Artists Voice – The Final, Part 3

We all want to find meaning in our lives.  For artists, that’s probably the single most important motivation for making our art. The thrust is first to understand ourselves.  When we approach our work we are, consciously or not, seeking to bring forth something fundamentally truthful.  By following through on those things that inspire us, all of our accumulated knowledge, skills and vocabulary coalesce in an attempt to bring order to the chaos of life.  The work of our artistic journey is the development of the artist and through it we reveal the mysteries of self.  If we’re any good at it, we make visible that which was unknown or previously invisible to us.

Turning 65 can be very freeing for artists!  Before, struggling with simply trying to make a living to get by from day to day and raising a family took priority over artwork. It’s really only now, without scattering all my personal resources, that I can seriously focus on myself and my art. Halleleuia! We are all always in the process of becoming. But now, I can begin to summon everything I’ve learned so far and from moment to moment, set it aside! I am now free to allow my creative self to speak!

So, I’m taking a retrospective glance back to discover evidence of a voice emerging from my works and I’m struck by the strength of voice I am suddenly able to see!  In chronological order I have brought up an array of quilts that  have an inherent grid style that’s present, in varying degrees, in most of my art.  Subject matter remains fairly constant as well – they all have nature and/or natural forms in common. Similar color choices predominate.

The most frequent difference between them is technique and construction methods. While some are entirely pieced, some are partially fused.  Some use all commercial fabrics while others use hand painted, printed and dyed fabrics. They vary in size from small, medium to large.

Yet, I’m surprised that a singular voice is clearly evident from the oldest to the brand new!

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A grouping of four still lifes show a greater range of disparate styles, each of them exploring different techniques, yet all of them do share a similar vocabulary.

“Tea For Two,” the first one, and “Steaming Hot” both have tilted cups giving off a similar energy. Espresso, has fluctuating lines in the fabric giving it movement. With no cups in the picture, “And Still” relies on a layering of elements and added hand stitching and overall texture to give it vibrancy and energy. It also appears to have learned a lot about what not to do from the previous quilt  and perks up quite a bit from the second one. “And Still” looks back at Tea For Two with fondness but shows a maturing vocabulary. I can see the influence of Pam Allen here, and yet, “And Still” clearly has the distinctive marks of its maker.

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And so, as we play, we explore. We manipulate our materials until we learn the make-up of our individual puzzles pieces – our inner life comes shining through. It takes shape – many shapes, actually, until at last we find it, piece by piece, day by day. We finally see it,  know it – own it.

The day comes when we can finally identify it as a piece of ourselves – a shape, a line, a texture that speaks to us, of us and how we fit into the world around us – our own, unique world with our own unique vocabulary.  Our “words” take shape, become our art, the inner self manifests itself into being on a whole new level.  When all the practice, memory and education step aside we are left free to speak in our own individual voice!

Note: In my last post I thought I linked to Russell Frampton and Suhas Bhujbal, but just realized it didn’t work, so I’m doing so now.  It’s worth checking them out.

Linking up with Nina Marie’s Off The Wall Friday.

An Artist’s Voice, Part 2

I’m not usually a conceptual artist. That is, I don’t usually set out with a message in mind or an intellectual treatise to act on. Of course, that’s not to say I don’t think about what I’m doing artistically. It just means that the main thrust of my art is more intuitive. As I get on in the process I listen to my own humming and shifting. I see what unfolds, what emerges from the less conscious part of me. Like a zillion others out there, I learn from doing. Sometimes, as for art calls and themed challenges, I have a specific goal in mind.  Except for one piece that’s for an art call, these days I’m not making art for these purposes. I’m chasing my own muse. I learn from exploring and by my many mistakes. To “see” my own voice, I need to study my own art as I do the work of others.

These three pieces are my first conscious efforts at working toward the expression of my own voice.  The art call was for “3 Cohesive Pieces,” by Valerie Poitier, then our local rep for SAQA, designed to create a forum for those of us who were still relative newbies on the fiber art scene to show our work and to begin to learn a valuable lesson or two. Thanks Val!  I did and still learn from this experience.

3 Cohesive Pieces
3 Cohesive Pieces, Let Them Be Left, In The Weeds, Anemone Dreams.

“When discussing art, one often concentrates on content and form. Content refers the subject matter, story, or information that the artwork seeks to communicate to the viewer. Form is the purely visual aspect, the manipulation of the various elements and principles of design. Content is what the artists want to say, form is how they say it. In order to completely understand and discuss a work of art, it is advisable to thoroughly study the concepts involved in producing a final composition. These important concepts are the art elements and principles of design.”

Excerpt from:  


I keep an ever-expanding board of artwork on Pinterest for my own perusal. 

I began this while I was in an online class with Pam Allen.  She ‘s a solid educator. She teaches her students to refer to the master painters for inspiration and to analyse their art for what works and how they accomplish their goals and solve their problems. I now carefully observe the work of artists whose work I really appreciate and I’m about learning from them, in some part by imitating those parts that I particularly am intrigued with or find most interesting or pleasing to my eyes. My first and most obvious attempt at this is what I showed you in the last post, a study of Van Gogh’s olive trees that I did in Pam Allen’s class. But in general I’m not that specific. Ordinarily, I just hope to take in those aspects that I observe through osmosis. But now I’m getting a little more knowledgeable and perhaps more thoughtful, and I think it’s having an effect on me.

By looking at what others do well, but also by following through on those things that inspire me, by reaching, even when I don’t always know what I’m reaching for, I become a seeker, travelling inward to discover my own inner yearnings while I practice all of those things that an artist does. I draw, paint, take photos, play with materials, fabric, plastic, leaves – whatever. I manipulate such things as color, lines, textures and shapes and draw on a personal archive of techniques and skills to illustrate, to render, to make marks that speak to me or of me. Whatever accumulated knowledge I have gets tapped as I try to make sense of the world around me.

When I first saw the works of the contemporary painter Russell Frampton, I knew there was something about them that I’d like to be able to do in my own art. There’s a lot I like about his paintings – he definitely has a distinct voice – but I think the aspect I most want to take from him is his use of space. At about the same time, I discovered Suhas Bhujbal. Aha, I can see this is what they both have in common that I’m attracted to. In fact, now, as I look at my painting board, I see a lot of the art I’ve chosen to put up on Pinterest has a similar sense of space!

I came upon these artists at about the same time I took a class with Elizabeth Barton. Although I still was not able to define that I was after this spatial awareness then (this past August), I unconsciously attempted to emulate this expansive sense of space and Elizabeth somehow made me feel brave enough to act on. For the first time in years (since I was quite young) I left whole areas of the ‘canvas” blank. I didn’t clutter up every inch of the piece with my marks. Because I knew I was going to do this, I had to wait until I dyed some fabric especially to suit the space that would be water. I consider it one of my most successful pieces to date.   And yet, it was the most planned work I ever did. I gave more thought to this piece before I ever started to make it than ever before. I drew up and cut out shapes and did a value study for the initial piece in class but actually totally re-designed the top part of it and put it together at home.

Across The Pond. web. Will this become an element of my own voice? Don’t know yet, although if so, not for awhile because I have so many without this element already in the process of becoming, but I do know that this is the way I’ll find it – pursue it – define it.

Here’s a peek at some of those WIPs that have been sitting on the back burner for awhile:

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I do think they illustrate a shift in voice.  I’ve given a lot of forethought to each one.  They are more abstract. And perhaps, there is more space left into the compositions than I had thought until looking at them now!

What are your experiences with voice? Can you define some elements of my voice that you see?  Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate hearing from you!