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Common Threads

February 11, 2010

common threads“Common Threads” – Collage, Image Size 5 x 7″
Mounted on 8 x 10″ Acid Free Paper

There is a common thread running through your art, whether or not you are consciously trying to make it happen. I know this because I can see it in others’ work. It’s sometimes not as easy to see in our own work.

Your style is your own, no matter what. And the objective observer can see that, even if you can’t. I don’t know why or how this works. It’s one of those mysteries.

A quote I saw recently by Robert Henri says, “Don’t worry about your originality. You couldn’t get rid of it even if you wanted to. It will stick with you and show up for better or worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do.”

I have always believed that. Your art is like your voice or your handwriting, and its personality shows through in everything you do in whatever your chosen medium, whether it shows up in the choices you make in the weight of a pencil line, or how you apply paint to canvas.

I believe all this intellectually, but as I say, it’s sometimes difficult to see it in my own work.

Do you see a common thread in your work? If not, it might be fun to ask a trusted artist friend to tell you what qualities make your work uniquely your own.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Becky permalink
    February 12, 2010 8:52 am

    Hi Martha,

    I’m new to your blog and loving the collage demos and your creative approach.

    Your post reminded me of some crit comments I got during a collage and mixed media class i recently took. I’ve always kinda wondered when i would find my style, what’s my style, i love so many things, wonder wonder….

    …and by the end of the class people were saying they could always tell which was mine! They noted a few aspects my pieces had in common with each other, things i hadn’t really focused on, & it really helped me to see what you’re saying, that a style just unfolds as you work! I guess it crept up on me. It really gave me confidence to worry less about my style and just jump in more. So thank you for mentioning this today, especially the part about difficulty in seeing one’s own style. Have a great day!


    • February 12, 2010 9:30 am

      Becky, thanks so much for your comment, and for visiting my blog! You are absolutely right about this.

      Before I moved recently, I belonged to a small group of women artists who met monthly for critiques and general camaraderie. We talked about this all the time. Before a show, one of us would always wring her hands about what artworks would “fit” with her other work. And whoever was voicing those concerns would have the rest of us reassuring her that it was just not an issue!

      Although, I do have to admit that I avoid putting too many divergent works together in one show, for fear of it looking like a “one person group show!” 🙂

  2. February 12, 2010 9:40 am

    Martha! For years I struggled with the concept of having my own style. Discovering a way of working smaller/quicker I was able to push through a lot more work and start to see that happen. I now have a few different themes I’m working through, and although I can see connectedness within one theme, I still worry that each theme is different enough that the connection isn’t there! It’s nice to hear someone as established as you still struggles with that. Although I’d like to find a small group of artists to form a support group such as you had, I know that I won’t have time to do that in the real world…but perhaps in the virtual one!

    Thanks again for talking about this!

    • February 13, 2010 12:44 pm

      Candy, my work is very much the same way — several different themes, but perhaps with an overall sense of my own style. Others see it and I sometimes can’t.

      It’s great to have a group to meet with and talk about these ideas and issues. Even if you did it only quarterly, you’d get a lot out of it I think. But failing that, the web is wonderful!

  3. February 12, 2010 9:50 am

    Style is an interesting topic….it’s so important to nurture those steps that lead us away from the pack….I think this post serves a purpose in regards to relaxing into your own vision. I know for me I no longer worry that my work will look much like anyone else’s because even when I attempt to follow a tutorial at some point my Muse will step in and move me into my own space, my own vision.
    Gotta love are Muses…and listen..

  4. February 12, 2010 11:09 am

    Martha — It’s funny that you should write about this “common thread,” as I just wrote something similar. Common threads, leit motifs, themes, archetypes — yes, over time — and perhaps that is the key word here — one does trace these patterns and motifs in one’s work. Love the light and airy colors of this collage — a harbinger of spring???

    • February 13, 2010 12:51 pm

      Kelly, isn’t it interesting how certain questions are being asked by several of us at the same time? It’s almost as if there’s a collective art consciousness!

      I do believe like you that these patterns in our own work become more apparent over time, using a body of work for perspective.

      Glad you like the collage. Spring seems far away right now, but thoughts of it are sprouting.

  5. February 12, 2010 4:08 pm

    I confess: I still worry about style. Others can see it, as you said.
    I think an artist’s style is easier to pick up on when their work is juxtaposed with another artist or artists. Then, it jumps out at you.

    Oh, yes…visiting your thoughtful blog reminds me: I need to go bury some papers in the yard! …Whee. 🙂

    • February 13, 2010 12:53 pm

      Yes, DJ, I think it’s easier to see when our work is seen with other artists’ work.

      Glad you’re going to try the buried papers. And that reminds me that I want to photograph my bundles that are on top of the ground now as well.

  6. February 13, 2010 9:20 am

    You have known my style for a bit Not sure how you would classify mine!!! As always food for thought

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