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!

10 thoughts on “An Artist’s Voice, Part 2

  1. In part of this post you specifically look at the way you handle space. A few distinctions might be helpful: in the image with boats you create the illusion of distance/space partly because the work reads as sea and shore (even though the boats are not scaled as they go up the canvas) but you have also chosen to have few forms in the foreground which result in lots of what you call “blank” space; I sometimes call it “white” space.This “empty” space often occurs in my work when I remove everything I do not absolutely need and it is sometimes a fine line between economy of expression and just plain dull.

    Thanks for the honest writing about your work. It is inspiring. Diana

    P.S. If these responses are too lengthy, or you would care to e-mail me directly, please let me know.


    1. Not too lengthy at all! I appreciate hearing what you have to say. Thanks so much! I will do another piece like this, a series perhaps to try to accomplish some things more successfully. In my initial design the background buildings were more abstract but I couldn’t quite get what I wanted and got more complicated than I set out to do. Not to graduate the sizes of the boats in correct perspective was a decision I made hoping to bring the foreground up very close. I had to hand dye the blue fabric so it wouldn’t be dull knowing that I was leaving it so empty. Can you explain how you differentiate between “blank” and “white” space? Where can we see your work?


      1. I do hope that my discussion above did not imply anything negative about your piece in blue. I really like the flattened space in the foreground juxtaposed with the buildings in the distance. Also when I mention the fine line between minimal and dull, I was speaking of a concern in my own work.

        I use the term “white “space rather than “blank” because for me it has a positive connotation derived from the language of typography where it is to be encouraged as a foil against too much text.

        I’ll save my last answer for your next post, which is already up!


  2. No Diane, I didn’t take anything you said as negative at all. I love getting feedback and the back and forth of a discussion. That’s part of why I started a blog – wish there was more of it!
    And I see what you mean now! Thanks!


  3. Beautiful work! Its great to see that you’re finding your own voice in art quilting! Its such an amazing feeling. I know trying others work which we like is fun, but at the same time finding your own voice and improving upon is such a soulful thing to do for yourself. Enjoy! I will be watching you grow as an artist.


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