Can I confide in you?

Lately, this old feeling has been resurfacing its ugly head in my psyche again. Whenever I’m interested in a new art form, and begin looking around at what other people are doing in that particular art, I become intimidated, overwhelmed and frustrated.

Part of my problem is that I’m struggling to find my own unique style. If I have one I don’t realize it, or I don’t like it. I’m not a copycat. I try to take a little of this and a little of that from other’s work and try to morph it into something original I can call my own, but I have a really difficult time doing that and I hate it. And here’s my mental glitch. I feel if I don’t think up something on my own, it’s not valid and it doesn’t count and it certainly doesn’t feel like its really mine. I know when an artist is beginning a new medium, the thing to do is look at what others are doing and learn from it. Back in 19th century Paris, fledgling painters used to sit in the Louve with their sketch pads and canvas’ and copy from the Masterpieces. Even they did it and these artists turned out to be Degas, Van Gogh and other famous artists.

This is such a struggle for me. My current demon is art journaling. I go online to other people’s blogs and see all the journals they are doing and I’m amazed. Immediatly, the “Why didn’t I think of that?” kicks in and all these feelings come flooding in and I begin to mentally beat myself up over it. I so desperately want to be original and creative-kick ass creative and it’s such a struggle for me. I’ve often thought it might be a bad thing for me to be looking around and seeing what other’s are doing. Maybe if I just kept privately to myself and work independently of outside influence I could let my true style emerge, unadulterated by being exposed to other artists’ styles. But that’s no fun. It’s part of the process to see how other artists interpret an idea and implement techniques.

I am trying to understand why this search for originality is so difficult for me. One of my problems is I’m very distracted. I have a difficult time focusing and trying to figure out what it is I want to do, what I want to paint, and how I can put an idea together. I’ve been taking Ginko Biloba every day to help my mental concentration and to help me focus. How is it that some artists develop such unique styles and seem to do it effortlessly? What inspires them? Is it possible I, too have this, and I’m just not recognizing it, or worse yet, not loving it? Admittedly, when I see the work of ‘successful’ artists, I really do feel a twinge of envy, and a lot of aggrivation. I get angry with myself for being so stumped.

I have realized something about myself that never really occured to me. I prefer to do creative projects with someone. I love, more than anything, to get a small group of friends together who love to do the same thing, such as doll making or art journaling and sit at a table together and work side by side. It’s so much more fun and productive for me to work this way. I love the company of other artists. I love the laughter, exchange of ideas and frivolity that goes along with a group. I have had this experience several times with doll making. A couple of my Hootin Annie’s doll designs have been born at a table, right alongside my sewing friends. I enjoy being alone, but when it comes to making art, I prefer the company of my girlfriends hands down to working solo.

In an effort to help myself develop a signature style, I am going to continue art journaling. I think art journaling can be a form of ‘art exercise’ that will allow greater creative ideas to follow. By exercising my right brain, maybe I can build up my artistic muscle and suddenly I will figure out or recognize my uniqueness. It will be like trying to have a baby. It takes some work and repetition to get pregnant (give birth to an original style), but it will be fun while I’m trying.

I suppose whatever happens, I have to realize that I must be true to myself, and however my orignial style emerges, I have to celebrate it and foster it to help it grow and evolve. Art gets better with practice, and it tends to morph into different things. If I devote a part of each day to being creative, and if I always keep my eyes open to new things and allow myself the time to get there, an epiphany just might hit me like a ton of bricks and suddenly I’ll be there, right where I want to be. I so desperately want to have it all figured out so. But for now, I’m going to stop lamenting, after all, Estee Lauder-the makeup diva, said it best, “I didn’t get where I am by thinking about it or dreaming about it. I got where I am by DOING IT.”

That’s just what I’m going to do.

Just curious. Do any of you have this same feeling?

15 thoughts on “Can I confide in you?”

  1. first, of all, UH YES I know exactly what you are talking about!!!

    and secong, it’s never too late to join the rebel army đŸ™‚

    lastly, I think for me, as you said, the less I looked at others stuff, more I could find what worked for me.

    second, if I had any advice, it would be to focus less on ‘signature’ and more on what’s fun and what you like. I think if you can give yourself permission to play, reoccurring themes will appear naturally.

    many blessings to you and thanks for stopping by my blog!!!


  2. Are you sure you weren’t writing about what I am feeling? I can SO relate! But your work is so amazing! Your blog is one that I come to looking for ideas and inspiration. Your art is beautiful.


  3. stop being so hard on yourself silly. who doesn’t go through that??? we ALL do. you get in a slump….”will i ever create again???” will i ever get that inspiration??? aahhhhh!!!but that’s what makes us artists. we struggle, bitch, beat ourselves up and then…boom. we create again. inspiration comes when you aren’t looking i am convinced of it.
    i do get my imagery from my mind…but the muse can be ANYTHING. songs lately….a dream, or something one of my boys stir up…life really inspires me. every day life.
    a wise teacher once told me in school, (when i was convinced i sucked and could never come up with another body of work)…”do what you do best, what you know you can do and the inspiration will come.” the struggle comes from struggling.
    working with fellow artists is still your art. your work may just be weaving the company of other artists into your own.
    creating alone is scary…you are alone. just you and the blank canvas or fabric for a doll. aaaahhhhh!!
    i have a secret that gets me through. i have a t.v. in my studio. yup. i turn on a movie (usually a kid one since my kids LIVE in my studio) and something in my brain turns off…the part that struggles for perfection…and i just…let go. i stop concentrating so hard on this being THE PIECE. if i don’t accomplish, i won’t be an artist.
    i just watch a cool movie and….voila. breaks the ice that holds me back.
    ok. i am sooo rambling on. so sorry. i have to go an work myself. all of my kids are napping!!!

    go create. and drinking a mean cup of strong coffee is a must.
    Lisa. p.s thanks for stopping by my blog!!


  4. You are not alone. Most creative people I know have experienced these feelings about originality and style at one point or another. The trick is continuing to work despite the feelings. From what you’ve written here, sounds like you’re doing just that.

    Stay true to yourself – the stuff you know and the stuff you don’t – authenticity is probably what makes the work of those artists you mention seem effortless.

    Best of luck!


  5. Yep…me too. So many people copy other’s work to a tee. It’s just wrong. I feel it will come along one day. Just have to be patient!
    I am happiest when working with mixed media.


  6. This is what I stress with my students and artist friends, ignore what is out there. Don’t EVER compare your work to anyone else’s. Keep an art journal and PLAY in it. The more you push and pull and don’t worry about the finished, final outcome…keep playing in it. You will develop your own style. You will learn what you like and what fits and suits you. It doesn’t happen over night and it really does take time. The more you stop comparing (and we’re all guilty of it), the easier it will get.


  7. Oh heck yeah!!! I feel the same way all the time…I’m more into digital art and I’m always comparing to what I find others doing and wondering if I’ll ever come up with something that original and good. I guess it’s a balance of something inspiring you to create something uniquely yours vs feeling like a copycat. I would like to find a way to art journal digitally…still pondering it.


  8. Actually, I see that you have your own style! Step back and see for yourself!
    I love your collage painting!
    Cary on!


  9. hello emily. I’m sorry I didn’t reply sooner – I’ve been away. Looks like you’ve gotten lots of wonderful advice. I attended a seminar recently where a very learned man spoke about education with a theater metaphor. He said true theater is what’s left when you take everything away. So you can take away the costumes, the scenery, the music, etc. But you always need the actor and the audience. Those two things have to occur to have theater.
    If you think you might have too much going on to find your own style, maybe try taking things away in your art life, one by one, until you find the thing that is the essential emily. It’s hard, because we always want to add rather than subtract, but go all the way back to what first inspired you to create and you might find your answer.


  10. Emily,

    You have your own style. It was there when we were in high school and its still there today. Its in your shape and form of your drawings and dolls and your medium? What were you always good at when we were kids? Sewing. You need to stop trying to push something down your own throat. It’s not about creative journaling, blogging, and drawing and painting with you. Its always been about sketching, DESIGNING, and sewing for as long as I can remember.

    Don’t try and find a wheel to reinvent but take the wheel you already have and roll with it baby!


  11. I too want to start art journaling and I’m in the same place you are. I see what others do on there blogs and I just haven’t gotten to do some for myself. I think you are way ahead of me thought. Your style of art lends itself to art journalig.

    I think my thoughts is about art journaling challenging me to go into altered items and collages. I just need to do it and see how it turns out. But I keep turning back to the things that I think I’m good at and are easy for me. Currently, it’s card making.

    You will be good at art journaling and I think you just need to think of something that is in your thoughts on a particular day and make a background and the write about it. I’ve found other blogs where they paint several backgrounds so they always have a place to journal when there thoughts are coming.

    Like me, I think we are both over thinking it!!!



  12. As a creative person, it’s nice to know that others go through the same ‘phases’. I’m guilty of ‘looking around’ and getting discouraged myself. But, I find that if I don’t look around I’m more productive and creative. I’ve come to the conclusion that people might be looking at my work (and yours!) and thinking the same thing.
    Keep up the good work!



  13. I feel this way every day. I get inspired then overwhelmed by all of the glorious talent around me, regardless of its’ creative outlet. In the end, I am still a writer. I always have been and I always will be. It’s that pesky self doubt that I let keep me from being more than I am!


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