These are some common questions that my students ask me quite often:
"How can I find my inner voice?"
"How can I develop my artistic style? "
"How can I paint loose?"
"I’d like to paint like my favourite artist, with that expression, instead of copying a picture. "
"Why my brushstrokes don’t have the same quality of that professional artist I admire?"
They all take us to that inner voice, that poetic way to paint that makes us bring technique and creativity together in a unique way, that reflects our personality.
It's been 24 years since I started learning painting (I believe we never stop learning!) and 17 years working as a professional painter and art teacher. Along the years, I’ve discovered a few things that have helped me on my painting journey.
So, my thoughts about the questions above are based on my experience with my students, my paintings and other artists who I’ve had the opportunity to get to know, learn from and share my thoughts.
Here we go!
How can I find my inner voice?
This is a tricky question. I’m going to share my own experience. When I was 19 years old, I used to paint Brazilian native birds like macaws and parrots.
Those paintings became very popular and I sold many paintings on that subject. I enjoyed painting them very much. Then I thought: I found my style, my inner voice!
But after a few years, I lost the interest in that as I kept learning other styles and techniques. So, that was obviously not my inner voice. Too early to make that statement!
Then, I developed an interest in painting the African-Brazilian culture that I was immersed in, back in my hometown, Salvador. I painted black women dressed in embroidered clothes, wearing colourful necklaces made of beads and other things. My style had changed and it had a touch of surrealism in it.
That was when I started bringing my imagination into my painting. I really enjoyed that as it challenged me to photograph my subject and plan my composition beforehand.
That type of work was very sought after in my city and overseas. Then I thought, I found my voice, my style!
But after a while, I got busy with other things and needed a change. I lost the inspiration and dived into learning more to teach and share with my students. I got busy creating workshops and teaching. I didn’t create any painting for nearly a year (I can’t believe that when I look back!)
Then, I got back to the creation mode as I got some portrait commissions. That happened just before I decided that I wanted to see the world and experience life overseas. An opportunity came up to visit New Zealand. I fell in love with its landscape. My inspiration was back.
As I moved to New Zealand, I had to start my life all over again. But the passion for painting was still inside. I brought my paints and brushes with me, bought myself an easel and canvases and started creating some paintings.
The interesting thing was that my style was in transition again. It was a combination of that surrealistic touch blended with the New Zealand scenery and the influences of God in my life.
As I was living far away from my roots, family and friends, I was out of the comfortable zone. Then, I believe that my relationship with God and This Superior Force got strengthened as a result of that. All these things showed in my painting.
After a few years, under the influence of some New Zealand artists who I got to know and admire and by studying the French and American impressionist movements in depth, my work began to change again! I was exploring colour and brushwork more than ever.
I started painting on location and learning more from nature and life.
Also, the need to provide my students with a variety of styles and techniques have kept me busy with looking for more ways to learn.
I believe that all the styles that I’ve gone through and things that I’ve learned along the way have contributed to the way I paint now. I’ve been exploring a looser approach and ways I can use the foundation gained in the past into bringing poetry into my painting.
That has been the approach I’ve been excited about for longer than any other and I still have lots to learn. It’s not easy, but I’m ready to dive deeper into this journey.
I’m so thankful that I had a classical training where I could learn the necessary skills and develop a good foundation. Because that has given me the tools that I need to express my imagination and challenge myself into representing things differently from reality. It has allowed me to unleash my inner voice and bring poetry into my painting.
I still have lots to learn and explore. And that’s exciting. Every painting is a new challenge and an opportunity for new revelations.
So here are some thoughts I’d like to share with you from my painting and teaching journey:
- Try not to look for your inner voice and don’t worry about it. Your inner voice will find you when you’re ready. In the meantime, keep learning, painting and enjoying the process.
- Learn as much as you can but don’t try learning all at once. It will be exhausting and frustrating.
- Explore several styles until you identify yourself with one.
- Be proud of what you’ve done and have accomplished in your art at the moment. We can go as far as we can until we get better and move to the next level.
- Don’t push yourself too hard but work consistently to improve your technique.
- Get a good foundation in the basics, like colour mixing, values, value relationships, drawing, composition.
- Copy the Masters to learn from the Greats, before you want to bring poetry into your paintings. Be humble and think ahead.
- Learn from other artists’ experiences. The Great Masters weren’t born great masters. They became that through study, hard work and passion.
- There is so much to learn and we can go as far as time allows us. But be consistent and persistent in your learning journey.
- Everyone has a different way to absorb information and transform it into their painting. We all have different personalities that take us to different styles and approaches. Respect that. Do what you feel connected to.
- There is no style better than another. They are just different ways to see and represent the world. There are beauty and audience for almost all of them.
- Don't compare yourself to anyone. People are different and we all process life differently. Instead, try to visualise what you would like to be able to do in your painting and work all the way to get there, step-by-step. Don't rush though!
- Be true to yourself and admire other artists whose work appeal to you. Be inspired by them!
- And the most important: be patient!
So, whatever stage you are in your painting, enjoy the process! Enjoy your journey! Your inner voice will find you! Be patient, consistent and persistent!