Art involves weaving together technique and your own personal vision. Instruction and careful practice make sophisticated expression possible, while honoring the sources of your creativity makes learning technique easier. The two can advance together.
I believe we best serve our vision by absorbing as wide an array as possible of techniques and influences and keeping the ones that serve us and dropping the ones that don’t.
To tell the difference, we need to go to the source, to what Ian Roberts in his book, Creative Authenticity calls “the headwaters of our inspiration.”
When you respond to something “out there” as an artist – a face, a landscape, the fall of light on a leaf or a bowl of fruit – you are responding to something “in here,” within your mind and emotions as well. That is what you really want to paint – not just what it looks like, but also how it feels to look at it.
The more you pay attention to and value what moves you, the more your art will begin to express your unique personality (maybe personhood would be a better word). And the more you get in touch with and seek to communicate what moves you as an individual – what concerns you, what intrigues you, what you believe is true, what you find arresting, fascinating, beautiful in the world – the more you acquaint yourself with who you really are. So art becomes a tool for self-knowledge and personal development.
The sources of our own creativity are so organic and so close to us we often ignore or don’t even notice when they knock. It’s like art is over here and moments of revelation are over there. Bringing those things together is what becoming an artist is all about.
Effectively communicating personal vision – that which, for you, lifts the ordinary to the remarkable: That’s the mission. What’s ofen meant by “expression,” a word that can be vague and confusing, is often simply this – the attempt to express what made you want to paint a thing in the first place.
Paint THAT, with whatever skill level you have right now, and you’ll find yourself excited to learn more.