Voice is a big deal in the arts. Every teacher I’ve had, and every creativity book I’ve read, talk about voice.
Most don’t explain it. Instead, they make it a mystery, something undefinable. “One day you’ll find your voice,” they say, as though voice is a game of hide-and-seek, or the tap of a magic wand from your fairy godmother.
I’ve decided voice is simple and it’s standing in plain sight.
My voice is the intersection where the whole of my life and the act of writing, or drawing, meet.
I think this is the same for anyone in the arts. If you are a dancer, it’s your life plus the act of dancing. If a musician or actor, it’s your life plus making music or acting.
My words and images arise from inside me. They come out of my life and who I am. Every life experience, every thought emotion belief doubt, all I learn and every choice I make. Everything I love and gather around me, everything I reject and push away. All I remember, all I forget.
Add to my life the repeated action of writing and drawing. The more I write and draw, the easier it is to connect with the well of life experience inside me, and pour it into the piece I create.
This is my voice. It is my individuality as a person, and how I see the world, expressed to you. When I put my individuality into words and images, my voice sings.
My voice as an artist and writer has always been with me. I didn’t need to learn it, but I needed to learn to recognize and trust my unique voice. It took me three years in art school and three years as a full-time artist to reach the first time I consciously recognized and chose to trust my voice. Before that, although I knew to my core I was an artist, I was unconsciously relying on my teachers, my peers, and the art world to define my voice.
I remember the shift, because the moment was terrifying and then freeing.
I know the drawing, too, and which part of the drawing was the terrifying, freeing moment. The drawing is at the top of this post. It’s titled “Everything I Know About The Human Heart, Part 2”, and the moment burned into my memory is just before I added the tally marks at the right edge of the paper.
I drew from a still life tableau, always. I played with the colours, using my instinct and intuition, but otherwise kept my work true to life.
This time, my instinct and intuition saw tally marks.
Those marks really really wanted to be a part of this drawing, insisting they belonged. The tableau held plain, white, cut paper and scissors, and definitely no tally marks.
I became frightened. Drawing the tally marks felt like a huge action, as though I was defying a rule while others watched, as though I was pushing through something I could neither see nor define, and beyond was the unknown.
I drew the marks, and suddenly felt the freest I had ever felt in my life. My instinct and intuition saw tally marks on the paper hearts, and I drew those in, too. I watched my still life drawing become something more than copying objects on a table. With those marks, I added scars, fences, wounds, stitches. I added emotion and story to my drawing.
I drew from my truest self, using what my heart felt. I drew my heart on that paper.
I let myself be seen.
I let my voice sing.
In this post:
This drawing is part of a body of work that became my first solo show. The entire collection is online at my art site, in the gallery titled ‘Everything I Know About The Human Heart’.