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  • Jennifer Gillen

The Artistic Voice


My current work in progress is filled with my own artistic voice.

If you can walk into a museum filled with art and identify the artists without looking at the placard, then you understand artistic voices. An artist's voice is the unique way of speaking through visual form that only a specific artist possesses. It isn't so much about what the artist has to say with their work as how it is said. Think of it as their style. It can take many years for an artistic voice to develop or it might be with the artist from the moment they pick up a pencil. It's like handwriting, in a way, completely individual.


Most artists search for their voices through trial and error. They try different mediums, styles and subject matter. Some artists don't care about finding an authentic voice and concentrate on skill. Others dismiss skill and dig deep into the process of their work to connect to an inner voice. In my experience, the truest voice comes from the work that feels most natural. In a sense, this art comes so automatically that it sometimes seems as though the art completes itself.


Artistic voice is fragile. It must be nurtured and noticed. If, as an artist, you aren't completely aware of when the voice shows up in your work, it can be hard to regain it. Visual influences often interfere with the voice. Without noticing, the voices of others can creep into the art. This is a danger of looking at too much art--particularly on social media. That rascal, the inner-critic, can also thwart the artistic voice. It creeps into the art in the form of insecurity, muting the artist.


The next time you're in a museum or gallery try to identify voices. It's also fun to look for overlapping voices. For instance you might hear a little of one artist in another artist's paintings. It could be that they are influenced by one another. When looking at contemporary art, particularly in galleries, try to identify artists that are still searching and maybe borrowing voices from others. Sometimes, you'll find completely voiceless art. It has such a muted way of speaking that appears merely decorative or functional.


As for my artistic voice, it comes and goes still. Sometimes I feel it and other times it is silent. My current painting project is being led by my own voice in a strong way. While painting I fall deep into rhythmic mark making and flow. I'm passionate about the shapes, colors and subject of this painting. Maybe that has something to do with it. When the painting is complete, I hope this voice will continue to be present in my work.

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