Instinct and your Creative Voice: Part 1
By Wendy Wagner
Like many current artists, I turn to Instagram for my daily dose of inspiration. I love seeing the variety of work and wondering about the path each person has taken to achieve their vision. I posed this question to some artists I follow: “How does an artist tap into their intuition to find their creative voice?” Their thoughtful answers are condensed below to preserve space in part one of a two-part series.
“First, I need to consider, what exactly is my 'creative voice'? That’s a difficult one to articulate as an artist! Then, what elements of that amorphous, slippery thing that represents my 'voice' come from intuition and how is that intuitive process arrived at?
“I think one of the key factors that represent my creative voice, and that I rely on my instincts to judge, would be the design and composition of my paintings. The placement of the figure within the frame of the canvas is vitally important to me, as are decisions about what to include and what to remove from the composition to create my design within the frame.
“Making those decisions is a purely instinctive visual process for me. I just know in my gut when it’s right, and I feel excited visually. In order to tap into that intuitive process so that I can make decisions about planning a painting, I need to be able to see it.
“I rely heavily on Photoshop manipulation for this process. I can remove unwanted elements of the source photography and alter the size, placement, angle, etc., all on a small scale. This allows me to easily visualize how it will look when I paint it on a larger scale. It’s also fun!
“Beyond that, there are a million intuitive decisions made during the act of painting itself. There’s a strange magic when you tap into that 'zone' that I think most artists experience. In all honesty, it’s baffling to me how we get there. It’s a little like a locked door in the attic of your brain that is opened then immediately closed again when you step away from the canvas thinking, 'how did I do that?' and 'where has the time gone?'
“My best advice for finding the zone would be to try and have a peaceful mind before you start. If there’s too much going on in the rest of the house, that little attic door will remain locked.”
“Everything comes from hard work… there’s no time to wait for lightning to strike. Intuition develops out of repetition through selectivity from both conscious and subconscious impulses.”
“Personally, I have found that my intuition needs prompts. And those prompts come in several forms. One of the ones I’m exploring right now is nostalgia. When I’m trying to design a piece, and I want to invite my intuition to take over, I start looking at photographs of places that meant a lot to me as a kid, but that I may not have access to now.
"Somehow the combination of how I felt when I went to those places, mixed with the sort of tragic quality of not having access to them is a combination that tends to lend to my intuition taking over. It’s very random, but it’s been working a lot for me lately, so I just roll with it.
"A more technical prompt tends to help my intuition take over on the canvas and to work from easy layers first, to more refined layers. Somehow the messy, carefree marks in the beginning have some mental safety in them, since I know I can cover them up later if I want. Those tend to be more intuitive in general.
"As I move forward in the painting, the biggest hurdle is usually letting some of those marks continue to live on the canvas, and not to cover them up. I have found that doing the opposite, working refined to looser tends to look forced and is harder for me to listen to my intuition.”
Much appreciation to the artists who shared their insights and methods for the benefit of our readers. I trust their recommendation guides you towards tracking down your own imaginative voice! Stay tuned for part two with expert insights from more great artists.