An Artist’s Voice. Part 1.

I’m engaging in an effort to understand and develop what is called an artist’s “voice.” This is the first part in a series of posts that will document this undertaking.

To begin, I’m taking a look at all my art quilts with trees as the main images – an exercise recommended by Elizabeth Barton in a blogpost listed below.

First,  at 66 years old, I really don’t know what my voice looks like.  All of my artistic experiences have revolved around exploration, observation, experimenting, learning techniques and practicing those.  I am mostly self-taught.

As a child, of course, as any child does, I loved to “color” with crayons but I loved anything to do with painting as well. Because I was also probably hyper active and a behavior problem at times, my first grade teacher, on the sage advice from my mother, made me “head of the art department.”  The key here was that I took well to responsibility and the trick worked – I became a straight A student, but a still misbehaving schoolgirl.  I loved my role as classroom artist in residence/ decorator for all seasons and holidays!   That year, 1954, I won third prize in the Boston Archdiocese Art Competition (yes I went to Catholic school) for my crayon drawing of a turtle (hence the inspiration for the “Turtle Moon” blog.

Into my teens I continued to paint.   I made some of my first pieces of fiber art.  Because at 15, I was looking forward to having my first child, I made my own receiving blankets and block patch small quilts. As my kids grew I made Halloween costumes and then some pillows around the themes of their favorite books.  I remember painting on cotton for the “Arrow To The Moon” pillow.  I did some sculpture, made puppets and continued to draw with pencil, graphite and ink.

Later, I went to UCBerkeley, SF as a student of Interior Design and Architecture but didn’t finish.  I became enthralled with surface design and disenthralled with being an interior designer. I was in my 30’s then. I made painted floorcloths for awhile.  I identify very much with the “makers” of the world! I made polymer clay jewelry. I painted walls and cabinets and furniture with creative paint treatment that included some faux finishing.

And here I am, now a fiber artist with little or no coherence that I can recognize in my own work, although I’ve been focused on fiber art for about 5 years now, starting with making quilts for my grandkids so I could learn to quilt.  I followed no patterns and designed each quilt.   But I did need to learn the basics such as how to sew together squares and triangles so the corners met, or came as close to it as I could.  It’s one thing if you want it to be wonky but to be wonky because you couldn’t get it right is quite another.  I believe in good craftsmanship and artistic integrity. I’m persistent.  I learned to do free motion stitching…no small feat because it meant, among other things that I needed a newer machine than I had and I was broke.  But I got it with a little help from my friends. I collected free fabrics that I recycled to help me out and I still do.

Why, you ask, at my age?  Because I don’t give up.  I said, I’m persistent but it’s more than that.  I’m driven to it. I want it.  I think that’s possibly the keynote. I want it. Should I just throw in the towel and consider than I’m just not talented enough to do what I want to do?  Maybe.  But I won’t.  I’m damned well going to find my voice! I want to create a body of work that is worthy of being called a collection of art before I leave this world.

So, back to the trees…at first glance I don’t see much cohesion here, although the most common denominator is that I used photos in 5 out of 8 of them and I used a photographic reference for the 3 remaining ones.  There is a predominance of winter trees – 5 out of 8. BUT…a consistent voice is missing, although 2 of them are part of the same series and they do have a familiar characteristics. The Grieving Tree and Winter Wonder are  part of the “Au Naturale” series that speaks to our natural world, my surroundings – a look at the vulnerability of our natural world, an expression of my hope to see it preserved and cared for. Land Speaks, a small study is, perhaps, the precurser to this series and it does have the seeds of a grid style using somewhat abstracted photos and the same subject matter. So, perhaps a voice begins to emerge. Perhaps.

I hope you will join in with your own thoughts and experiences about this subject as I go along. Please feel free to add your observations to this document in the comments section.

Here are some really good articles and blogs on this subject that I’ve read recently that you may be interested in:

Excerpt from Art Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist by Lisa Congdon. All illustrations in this post were created by Lisa, too.

Finding Your Artist’s Voice By Bonny Pierce Lhotka
10 Questions That Will Help You Find Your Voice by Todd Henry

ART AND QUILTS, COGITATIONS THEREON The List of Important Features by Elizabeth Barton.


10 thoughts on “An Artist’s Voice. Part 1.

  1. Great post and topic! I’ll be turning 65 this year and also still looking for my voice. Like you, I’ve done a lot of art/crafts. I really would like to drill deeper in specific fabric art, but I end up getting interested in something else. Maybe I’m one of those jack of all trades – master of none. Thanks for the links and I’ll be following your journey.


    1. Thanks for the feedback Lynda! Yes, I get bored with doing the same type of thing repeatedly and move on to something different as soon as I finish one piece. BUT, I’ve made a commitment to to do this! I’m all in now!


  2. I have been reading your blog for a couple of years and I think you have a voice and have had it for a sometime. If I look at the pieces you put in the last post most of them form a coherent group. The voice is the in the subject matter and its execution. Your subjects are often, natural forms, especially trees and birds, and in your execution there are distinctive color choices, repetition of certain shapes, lines, divisions of space, movements, textures, and use of photographic materials, and that’s all without taking into account that they are quilted fabric works!

    Of course, artists make works that stick out, or don’t fit, but maybe they just don’t work or maybe they are the start of another series!

    I enjoy your blog. Best wishes, Diana aka sviewave


  3. yes, most excellent article you’ve written! and I agree with sviewave, it is apparent that you have a clear and distinct ‘voice’ to your work. I think, sometimes, we can’t hear the sound of our own voice as clearly as another can hear it. I like how you are Persistent 🙂 persistence pays off!


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