Thursday, November 05, 2015

Learning To Love My Creative Style

Learning to love your own style is something a lot of creative people struggle with, often even after they achieve success. Personally, I only started to love my own style and my own work fairly recently, within the last couple of years. For most of my life I felt that my creative style was almost embarrassing, and I definitely didn't love it.



I've always had a dual interest in art and craft. From the time I could master fine motor skills, I was equally interested in drawing pictures and making tiny doll's dresses. At some point during secondary school and sixth form I got the idea that Fine Art or writing were the only creative outlets with any merit. I think this probably came both from teachers and from people in my personal life, plus the added pressure that I was a very academic student who was encouraged to pursue an academic path, not a creative one. A career as an artist or author seemed like an acceptable compromise to some people, but there was general disapproval of my interest in textiles and the fact that at the time I wanted to study Fashion. This feeling of disapproval gnawed away at me, and I felt almost guilty for my interests.



 Added to this, I felt like even my art style was all wrong. I leaned towards illustration, and I had little interest in observational drawing, which was what I was constantly told to focus on. I wanted to draw made up images, fantastical scenes which didn't exist in real life. My work didn't look like other people's in my classes, and it wasn't praised by teachers, so I thought there must be something wrong with it. I didn't just want to make art, I wanted to make beautiful, useful objects. But I didn't want to give up either art or crafting, which was another issue-people kept telling me I had to focus on one path or the other, or I'd never get good at either.



My confidence was further eroded when I applied to study Fashion and was rejected-unsurprisingly, as I had no experience and barely any portfolio. I felt like I had gone out on a limb with my interest in textiles, and it hadn't paid off.

I was left with a feeling that my style and my work just weren't good enough, interesting enough, or outstanding enough. I avoided art altogether and had very little confidence in my craft work. I wouldn't take risks with my work, and I deflected any compliments or suggestions. It didn't help that I had hardly any creative friends, and none of my partners were creative. It was difficult for my social circle to really appreciate the effort I put in, or talk about my frustrations with my style, when they had no experience themselves of the creative process. The only comparisons I could make were to pictures in books and online, which only made me feel worse. I was comparing my efforts while I was still learning, with established experts and people who were making a living from craft blogging, so of course I felt like I would never be good enough.


Then my feelings started to change. I started a a relationship with a creative person, and being able to bounce ideas off each other and get feedback from someone who understood my process was amazing. He regularly complimented my work, and encouraged me to get back into art. I started talking to more creative people online, which lead to more feedback and more bouncing around of ideas. I was also very inspired by the people I was talking to-people at the same stage in their creative journey as me, who were still learning and still developing a style. I realised that actually, my style was interesting, and I did have skill. I also started to share more of my work online, which again was great for feedback and really boosted my confidence.


I realised that my dual interest in craft and art wasn't a bad thing, at least not for me. Rather than distracting from each other, they could bleed into, overlap, and inspire each other. Having more than one discipline also stopped me from getting bored, as I had so much variety in what I was working on. It also gave me a unique style, where I could blend my skills from various disciplines together.


I started to put more of my personality into my work, and to only work on things which I liked, not things I felt I should be doing. I stopped trying to be someone else, or emulate the style of someone else, and did me. I fully embraced my eccentric, fantasy, fairy tale leanings and my obsession with deer, and incorporated these into my work. I used all the colours, and played with scale, and drew made up things (although I realised that observational drawing actually helps with drawing made up things), and felted tiny, pointless but wonderful fantasy mushrooms. I had more enthusiasm and I liked the work I produced much better. I also noticed a link between my life and my work-the happier, more secure, and more free to be myself I felt, the more I liked my work. The more I liked myself, the more I liked my style. I got more and more enjoyment from creating, so I spent more time creating, so my skills improved.  I was producing better quality work, so it became much easier to like it and feel proud of it rather than seeing the flaws. 


It also helped that I got older and wiser, and just stopped caring so much whether other people liked my style. I am creative because I love the process, I'm not currently making a living from it, so my priority is whether I love what I'm creating. And it turns out, there are plenty of other people who love it too. 

I'm now at a point where I can genuinely say that I love my creative style. I love the majority of my work-I'm never going to love 100% of it, and that's ok and normal. But I love my style, and I see that I have a style. I can look at any of my work, whichever discipline or material, and see a little bit of my personality. And that's a pretty fabulous feeling.



So if that was all TL;DR, here are my top tips for learning to love your own creative style:

  • DON'T LISTEN TO OTHER PEOPLE. Especially not your family, or non-creative friends. You have to listen to teachers, lecturers and clients to a certain degree, but don't let them crush your style. 
  • SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORTIVE, CREATIVE PEOPLE WHO ARE AT A SIMILAR POINT. Or find yourself a mentor, who is further ahead in their creative journey but willing to support and advise you.
  • DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF NEGATIVELY TO ESTABLISHED CREATIVES. It's just self destructive.
  • KEEP CREATING. Because you're never going to get any better without practice.
  • YOU DO YOU. Because your style is great, and so are you.

6 comments:

  1. I can relate to this post so much. I've been creative most of my life and it just became second nature to me, I never really worried whether people hought I was good or not and then I had my frst real creative crisis last year afer becoming self emploed and felt like a bit of a fraud because I felt like I'd lost my style and was just creating to save face but I'm back in a much more positive place now and back to developin my own style. Also some great words of advice at the end. x

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    1. Yes I had the same thing with self employment, that's one of the reasons I'm taking a break from it. I think now when I go back to it I'll be in a much better place. x

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  2. This is a great post. I'm interested in a diverse range of crafts too (I get bored too easily!) and have had my creative ups and downs as well. Thank you for sharing your experiences and advice!
    xx Katie.

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    1. Thank you! I'm the same, my limited attention span is why I do so many different crafts and different art styles! It does mean I take a bit longer to finish things, but at least if I switch between them I can eventually finish things rather than just abandoning them.

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  3. I love your art! I know how you feel though, I felt this about my writing style for a long time too.

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  4. I love this post Polly, it really struck a chord. I think we have lots in common, but I didn't even try to apply to art school because the disapproval from those around me was so strong! Getting older and wiser really does help. I'm in my mid-thirties now and I'm finally realising that what I do isn't a hobby or a simple past-time, it's a way of life. And, yes, with that comes confidence in my own style and learning to ignore everyone else! Thank goodness for instagram, twitter and blogs - that's where I find my creative tribe.

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