Saturday, January 10, 2009

finding me

I am an avid consumer of magazines. I have very specific tastes in the magazines I purchase. I especially enjoy anything published by Stampington & Co. ( The quality of their publications is unsurpassed. They feature the very best paper and fiber artists from around the world as well as those just starting out. With every issue, I find a new technique or genre that I would like to try. Exposure to the work of so many artists can be a double-edged sword. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the style of others, and that of my own.
I began my artful journey drawing cartoon-like figures. I have certain characters that flow from my hands every time I pick up a pencil or marker. I can't draw just anything in cartoon form, but I do have a small repertoire. For years I would draw these figures on a regular basis. At meetings, in class, on tote bags, in little stories I would draw for my preschool students, and to amuse friends and relatives. I created handmade Santas which sold fairly well at a couple of craft shows and among friends and family. I even dabbled in sewing for a while. Art was always a part of my life, but I sometimes felt directionless. Then one day, about ten years ago, I picked up a copy of Somerset Studio.
I was instantly overwhelmed by the quality of work including collage, mixed media assemblage, and paper crafts. I wanted to try them all! I collected ephemera for my collages, found objects for assemblages, rubber stamps, handmade papers, paints and inks. I journaled like Teesha Moore, made jewelry similar to that of Nina Bagley, attempted all of Claudine Hellmuth's techniques, and took soldering classes taught by Sally Jean. I learned so much!
There came a time though when I wasn't sure if my work represented me or was just a clever imitation of the masters. Is it possible to have one's own unique style yet still incorporate techniques learned from others? I think so, but it can certainly be a slippery slope. When I find myself looking at an almost complete piece thinking, "should I give it a hat or wings?" I know I've lost my way. Sometimes, a hat or wings, or butterflies, or whatever recurring symbols might be out there is just what a composition needs. But sometimes, it can be what a composition needs to look like someone else has done it. That's the slippery slope.
In the past ten, twelve months I think I have begun to feel comfortable in my own skin as an artist. I am beginning to recognize my own style coming through. My work may contain techniques I've learned from others, but my goal is to make it my own. I've noticed that when my work is submitted for gallery showings, the work that is accepted for exhibition is that which most closely reflects me. I then focus on that piece and think about which elements are "patti-like" and build upon those for my future work.
Who knows, maybe someday, someone will mimic my style. Hey, imitation is a form of flattery, right?

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