10 Tips to Find Your Own Artistic Voice

microphone singer voiceThere are some individuals who have been painting or creating for years, but still struggle to find his or her own voice as an artist. This is a rather common phenomenon, but it can be very frustrating and disconcerting.

In the article below, my friends at ArtBistro share some great tips to help you discover who you are as an artist and what it is you want to say… ~Lori

Guest Author: ArtBistro. Originally posted on ArtBistro.Monster.com

Artists may work for a very long time, even a lifetime, and never quite find their artistic voice. They may know that their work isn’t really that fresh or interesting but not seem to possess the wherewithal to break through into deeply felt, personalized work. Here are ten tips for doing just that: for finding your voice as an artist.

1. Detaching from your visual library

A very common problem, and almost always an unconscious one, is the need an artist feels to make his work look like something he holds as “good art” or “real art””—very often Old Master art. Because he possesses an internal library of the successful artworks of well-known artists, without realizing that he is doing it he aims his art in the direction of those successes. It is vital that an artist detach from that visual library—extinguish it, as it were—so that his own imagery has a chance to appear.

a stack of art library books

2. Not resting on skills and talent

Maybe you excel at producing dynamic-looking cats or turning a patch of yellow into a convincing sun. That you have these talents doesn’t mean that you ought to be producing lifelike cats or brilliant suns. Your strongest subject matter and style choices are dependent on what you want to say rather than on what you are good at producing. By all means parlay your skills and talents—but don’t rely on them so completely that you effectively silence yourself.

3. Allowing risk-taking to feel risky two men sky diving

Very often the personal work you want to do feels risky to undertake. Intellectually, you may find the way to convince yourself that the risk is worth taking—but when you try to take the risk you balk because you suddenly feel anxiety welling up. Remember that a risk is likely to feel risky. Get ready for that reality by practicing and owning one or two anxiety management strategies that allow you reduce your experience of anxiety.

4. Completing for the sake of progress

When you make new work that you think is aiming you in the direction of your genuine voice, try to complete that work rather than stopping midway because “it doesn’t look right” or “it isn’t working out.” You will make more progress if you push through those feelings, complete things, and only then appraise them. It is natural that work that is new to you and a stretch for you may provoke all sorts of uncomfortable feelings as you attempt it. Help yourself tolerate those feelings by reminding yourself that finishing is a key to progress.

5. Thinking about positioning

You may want to develop your voice independent of art trends and say exactly what you want to say in exactly the ways that you want to say it. Or it may serve you to take an interest in what’s going on and make strategic decisions about how you want to position yourself vis-à-vis the world of “hot artists,” galleries, collectors, exhibitions, auctions, movements, and so on. It isn’t so much that one way is right and the other wrong but rather that some marriage of the two, if you can pull it off, may serve you best: some marriage, that is, of the intensely personal and marketplace strategizing.

checkmate chess

6. Articulating what you’re attempting

Artists are often of two minds as to whether they want to verbally describe what they’re visually attempting. The paraphrase of a visual experience into a verbal “artist’s statement” often feels unconvincing and beside the point. On the other hand, it can prove quite useful to announce to yourself what you hope to accomplish with your new work. By trying to put your next efforts into words, you may clarify your intentions and as a consequence more strongly value your efforts.
7. Not repeating yourself for the sake of repeating

Repeating successful work has a way of reducing our experience of anxiety and can bring financial rewards as well. But it may also prevent us from moving forward and from discovering what we hope to say. A balance to strike might be to do a certain amount of repeat work, for the sake of calmness and for the sake of your bank account, and to also add the reality of new work to your agenda.

8. Revisiting your earliest passions

Life has a way of causing us to forget where our genuine passions reside. You may have spent decades in a big city and completely forgotten how much the desert means to you. You may have been so busy painting and parenting that your burning passion for creating a series of cityscapes fell off the map somewhere along the line. Finding your voice may involve something as simple and straightforward as making a list of your loves and starting those that still energize you.

painting heart

9. Integrating your different threads

Maybe you make two sorts of art, abstract relief paintings and realistic flat paintings. This division may have occurred at some point when, perhaps without consciously thinking the matter through, you decided that the one painting style allowed you do something that the other didn’t. It may pay you to revisit this question and see if the two styles can be integrated into some third style that allows the best of both current styles to come together. Whatever you discover from that investigation—whether it’s to move forward in a new way or recommit to your current methods—you will have helped yourself better understand your artistic intentions.

10. Accepting never-before-seen results

It can feel odd to speak in your own voice and then not recognize the results. Because what you’ve created may be genuinely new—and completely new to you—it may look like nothing you’ve ever seen before. That can prove disconcerting! Don’t rush to judge it as too odd, a mess or a mistake, or not what you’d intended. Give it some time to grow on you and speak to you. Your own voice may sound unfamiliar to you if you’ve never heard it before!

english robin singing


Thanks for stopping by for a visit…you might also like these articles: PS. Please add any of your own helpful tips to this list in the comments…and, let’s meet on Facebook and Twitter! ~Lori  🙂

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  1. Janice Tanton June 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Again…such fantastic ideas, Lori! Might I also add one thing that will most definitely help you to find your own voice, and that’s to experience other methods of artistic expression – dance, sing, music, sculpt, paint. Try an artistic pursuit outside of your own expertise. The experience will allow you to put a different “voice” into your work, and shed some insights. Often, looking at something through a different artistic lens can completely clarify your style and your own…authentic voice!

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      This is a great tip Janice! That old saying, ‘you can’t see the forest for the trees’ is true even in art. Sometimes we are so focused we lose our peripheral vision. Trying out another form of artistic expression might help give us a wide angle lens!

      Thanks for the great thoughts.


  2. Clara Berta June 7, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    I love what Janice said: to add other forms of creativity in your work. I also love being in nature which helps me to create balance in my life, I feel the need right now, so thinking that I need a good hike. I also love photography and sharing them on Twitter and FaceBook. Thank you for a great blog once again. Wishing you continued success. One more thought, it’s great to go on vacation or take a workshop in another city which helps to inspire you to create in new ways. Hope you had a great trip Lori!

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      Hi Clara, it is fun to see you here again. Yes, the workshop was very motivating. But, strangely enough, I came home like a deer in the headlights! It always takes me a month or two to distill what I have learned, so that i can incorporate it into what I already know. That way, I don’t ruin my own voice by trying to sing like someone else!

      Thanks for the sweet words. I am glad we are pals-

  3. Penny Collins June 7, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Hi Lori,

    Thanks for this great article.

    I have a wide variety of subject interests and styles. My subject interests include landscapes, flowers, animals, architecture, and portraits. My styles include cartoon/comic, impressionist, abstract and realism.

    I enjoy having wide interests but I am really trying to focus.

    So I’m exploring cats as my primary subject matter, with the idea to include these other aspects (eg, landscapes or flowers) as supporting subject matter.

    Your article has reinforced my thoughts about this new direction. Especially point 9, “Integrating your different threads” and point 5, “Thinking about positioning.”

    Thanks again!

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2011 at 3:07 pm

      Hello Penny and thanks for taking time to comment.

      Over the years, I have had many artistic interests over the years too. I still paint landscape, still life, nature and plein air to this day! I think it is important to have a consistent and cohesive body of work to be taken seriously out there in the art world. If you paint many subjects, do at least8-10 painting of that same subject matter….for example, when I am painting for a still life show, I have at least 8 still life paintings. The same goes for landscape, etc.

      That is my tip! I hope it helps…I think I will blog about this topic soon….

      Happy creating-

  4. Geoffrey Talbot June 8, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I love this Lori,

    I think of finding our voice as a little like an actor finding his or her character. We are like a lump of wood and we chip away every thing that is not our voice. Our voice is inside of us… and we sculpt until we find it.

    Thanks for the blog

    Geoff Talbot

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2011 at 2:43 pm

      Hi Geoff,

      I am glad you like this post. I like your actor analogy. Thanks for sharing that thought.

      I appreciate all your support!

  5. Dianna Woolley June 11, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Great sharing from ArtBistro.com. Having successfully opened my first one woman show last week, I’m thrilled to say that what I felt was something unique for viewers/buyers apparently turned out to be….I had 22 pieces on display and sold 12 of them that evening. My show is up until the end of the month and I’m in creative mode to replenish my work for online sales and for my next show – no, I don’t know when or where it will be – but it will be:)

    Thanks as always for sharing your knowledge and links!

    • Lori McNee June 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      Congratulations Dianna! That is great news for us all. I just visited your blog and really enjoyed seeing your great art and fun posts. If you ever want to share a guest blog post, be sure and submit one to me.

      Thank you for the nice words and again, I am happy for you!

  6. Spring flowerchild September 23, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Great post! I love the point about articulating what you’re attempting. It could be something technical or conceptual. Whatever the path, articulating it, even to yourself will help you grow leaps and bounds. That’s my personal take on it. I’ve just started to do this recently, and I touched on something that I’m quite passionate about and can’t wait to see unfold. Art is work, but it can be purposeful play when you have clear intentions. Thanks for sharing.

    • Lori McNee October 10, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      I really like your point, ‘art is work, but it can be purposeful play when you have clear intentions.’ That is beautiful and so true. Thanks for sharing and I would love to see your art!
      Feel free to post it at http://www.facebook.com/FineArtTips anytime 🙂


  7. Vicki August 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    The author of this article- word for word- is Eric Maisel who answered a post on artbistro with the text that appears in his copyright book, Making your creative mark.

  8. Cherry Jeffs August 18, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I know you post a link to art bistro, Lori, but I think it’s only fair to make it clear that it’s actually Eric Maisel that has answered these questions. He’s a great guy and will only thank you for linking to him.

    • Lori McNee October 24, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      Hello Cherry, ArtBistro originally owned that content and Eric wrote it for then. They asked me to post it that way. Thank you for caring for Eric’s best interests. I did credit him as requested by Art Bistro.

  9. Fay Petrovitz May 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you so much for your site which is full of great suggestions. At 81 you would think I would have found My style! Nope! My occupation is nursing, my vocation was art. Now vocation is my occupation. Since 12 years of age, I have used all mediums and all subjects. Absolutely love art, but no style. I think time is getting short. I will use all your tips and continue to study. Thanks loads. Fay

    • Lori McNee May 10, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      Hello Fay, thank you so much for taking time to comment and share your thoughts. I love that you are still painting at 81! What an inspiration. One of my favorite things about ART, is that we can keep improving with age. Most things, like athletics, etc., get more challenging. But, with ART we can keep growing as long as we have our faculties. Keep learning! It will keep you young at heart! Hugs, Lori

  10. danielle June 10, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks Lori. What a find.

    • Lori McNee June 15, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      Many thanks for the visit Danielle!

Comments are closed.