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  • Writer's pictureJules

Art is Meant to Say Something!

First steps in art

When I first started out making art, I was looking at how to make things as realistic as possible. If I mastered the techniques of accurately drawing or painting something real, it's merit could be accurately measured; a great drawing or painting was successful if it looked like it should. This is something school encourages everyone to do. Learn how to use your tools, and learn the processes involved for accuracy, then you can be graded.

Watercolour painting of a shipwreck
Painting of the American Star shipwreck in Fuerteventura. Watercolour, A3 size

As time has gone on, and I have made more and more realistic artworks, I started to run out of things to paint. Yes, I could paint another plant or building or boat... but what would it mean? What was I trying to capture within that painting that was worth the time involved?

For ages I didn't paint at all. I would wait for that one great photo that would miraculously come out of my camera, and maybe once a year, decide that it was worth painting it. The trouble is, that I wanted to paint more often. Every day, in fact. So, either I would need to get better at taking photos (which I didn't want to invest my time in) or I would need to change things up a bit.

Moving from a photo to what's in my head

I realised that if I wanted to be making art that meant something to me, and represented what I saw and felt about a place, I was going to need to move from realistic paintings to something more abstract. I would need to pick colours that appealed to my mood, and to show the shapes in the landscapes that had attracted my eye. I wanted to capture the feeling I had when I felt inspired, hopeful and excited about where I lived.

How to speak without language?

The trouble is, I had no idea how to go about this. I knew that in order to express myself in a meaningful way, I would need a way to do it so that people would listen to the message (otherwise what's the point of saying it out loud at all?). I wanted to share what I produced, to show other people what I was seeing. And to do this, I needed to be making art that was cohesive in style, and said it in a way that was consistent with me and my message. I concluded I needed a unique artistic style - one that I would be proud to show as mine.

Artistic style is like your handwriting

It was during this process that I realised that developing your unique artistic style, was much like learning to write, and that the real point was to learn what to say (feeling a bit like a catch 22?).

I also realised, once I'd gone through many different tutorials and courses about finding your style, that the only way to do so, was to paint and draw more. There was no magic shortcut or secret recipe. Much like developing your handwriting, it arises out of the process (writing a lot to say something), rather than being the reason (to make pretty writing).

So with trying to draw or paint everyday, and to see and record things around me, I have refined my building blocks for creating art. It's still a work in progress, but I'm starting to see things come together.

The difference between a painter and an artist

As Seth Godin points out, the difference between a painter and an artist is that a painter just paints a picture to sell (usually told to do so by someone else), and an artist uses painting to create a message they want to share. Something that will change the viewer. A gift.

It's with this in mind that I am currently moving forward with my art and my artistic style. I want to connect the dots, draw conclusions, notice things that others miss. I want to be endlessly curious, and share my findings with other people. With you. And hopefully, build connections and change our world for the better because of it.

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