Finding my artistic voice: Deleting Instagram and speaking my truth
Welcome to the first post in a series that I’ll be writing which will take you along on my journey to find my artistic voice. I’ve been making a serious crack at my art for about a year now, but when I look back at the piles of work I’ve done there doesn’t seem to be a cohesiveness to it. During the month of August I’m taking an introspective approach to finding my artistic voice so I can take my art to the next level.
Here we are, half way through 2019 and I’m only now realizing that I’ve been flailing all year. In this post I talk about how I came to the decision to break up with Instagram for a month and what I’ll be doing with all the free time I’ll have as a result. I go into this in more detail in episode 15 of Creative on the Side if you’d rather listen to me talk about it than read it. I’ll also be talking about the first thing I realized was missing from my work. Two days into this journey and I’m already having revelations? I’m shook.
The realization that something wasn’t right
I’d been feeling kind of low for a few days around the long weekend that just passed and, long story short, I connected it to the fact that I wasn’t able to really create anything whenever I sat down with my sketchbook. I pondered that for a while, and realized that I hadn’t made very much work that I really liked all year so far, and when I thought harder about that I realized I wasn’t really making much work period. I need a new creative routine because what I’m doing now is not working.
Currently my routine looks a little something like this
I realize I haven’t really drawn anything good for a while. I also haven’t posted anything new to Instagram for a while, I should probably try to hit those two birds with one drawing.
I sit down with a blank page in front of me and blink at it a few times.
I put down my pencil and pick up my phone, and with a practiced hand I know exactly where to go to open the Instagram app. You know, to see if I can get inspired by anything there.
What was I even doing before I picked up my phone? Wow was that really 30 minutes ago?? Oh man now I’m out of time for sketching.
We were on a break!
One connection I made was that I was spending too much time on Instagram, either researching other illustrators (aka comparing myself to other illustrators) or mindlessly scrolling without intention. I was using it as a distraction, and it was becoming scarily habitual. Once I realized that I was addicted to Instagram I wanted to take a break from it cold turkey. Not allowing myself to worry about losing any growth progress I’d made, I quickly and roughly lettered and illustrated a post to put on my grid with a quick caption that said something along the lines of “I’ll be gone, but I’ll be back”, and I deleted the app.
My new creative routine will look something like this
I’m going to sketch every single day. No exceptions, no excuses. Even if all I have time for is a really rough five minute sketch of whatever is in front of me in that moment, that will be my sketch for the day.
I’m going to journal every single day. No exceptions, no excuses. I’ve worked this into my morning routine so I can get it out of the way first thing while I’m drinking my coffee. It actually sounds kind of delightful and indulgent, doesn't it? That’s enough to get me out of bed a little earlier to maintain this habit.
I’m staying off of Instagram for the month of August, and being really intentional with my use of other social media apps. No more comparison trap!
What exactly do I want to accomplish? Simply put, I want to find my own artistic voice. I want to experiment and discover what I like without constantly looking at what others in my field are doing. They say art isn’t created in a vacuum, but I need to put myself into one for a short while to figure out what I want to say and how I want to say it without looking at outside influences. This is about me!
An aha! moment
Yesterday Lisa Congdon’s new book came out. It’s called How to Find Your Artistic Voice: An Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic, and while I’d preordered it ages ago, it seemed to come to me at the perfect time. I couldn’t wait to dig into it. I was reading the part with the interview with Andrea Pippins and something struck me like a lightning bolt: I’ve been excluding a huge part of my story from my work!
I don’t think I literally slapped my forehead, but as I’m remembering the moment it feels right to say that I slapped my forehead, and then climbed out of bed to get my Posca paint pens and my small mixed media sketchbook.
I am a survivor. I’ve lived through some pretty grim trauma. Some of which I have actually spoken about, finally, out loud. You can hear me talk about this trauma and how much I’m sweating from talking about said trauma on the other podcast I do with two of my friends.
I’ve always been scared to include this subject in my art because my art has always been meant as an escape. It was cute and fluffy and pink with rainbows and clouds. It was never meant to be dark or heavy or angsty. I don’t know what it was exactly, but something in Pippins’ interview made me realize that I can weave this part of my story into my work and still maintain the lightness I love. Because my story isn’t a darkness anymore. It was a darkness. Back then, when I was in it. But now I’m on the other side. I’m a survivor, I’m a friggen warrior. And that is empowering, and empowerment isn’t darkness at all! This piece flashed behind my eyes and I had to paint it right away. It’s brightly coloured, it’s happy, it has clouds in it, AND it talks about the fact that I’m a survivor of trauma. I can be both!!!
And just like that, I’m zeroing in on my voice. I’ve only been at it for two days. Maybe this won’t be as hard as I thought it would be.
Phew! If you made it to the end of this post, congratulations! And thank you so much for reading. I don’t think that the rest of the posts in this series will be quite this long, and frankly I could have broken this into two posts. I did actually try to! But they were both kinda timely and I couldn’t make it work, so today you get a twofer.
See ya in the next one!