I Am Not a Painter

I don’t even play one on TV. I’m so far away from being a painter that I couldn’t even pretend to be one, but I know rather a lot of painters, and I’ve discovered over many years of listening to them talk about what they do that many of the things that apply to painting are often just as useful to those of us who make other stuff–clay stuff and fabric stuff and, well, just about any kind of stuff.

I ordered a book a while back: Finding Your Visual Voice, by Dakota Mitchell with Lee Haroun.


And, no, I’m not telling you about this book because it’s one of ours–a North Light book–even though it is. I didn’t even know who’d published it when I ordered it; I ordered because Mary Beth Shaw (author of Flavor for Mixed Media) told me to. OK, she didn’t really tell *me* to, but you’ll remember she mentioned it in one of our recent podcasts. It didn’t say anything about “painting” in the title, so I quickquick ordered a copy. When it arrived and I read the subtitle, though–A Painter’s Guide to Developing An Artistic Style–I thought, “Huh.” But I’ve learned that there is such a huge, huge cross-over in our world that I can’t exclude something–a book, a product, a technique–just because it’s about something that doesn’t seem to apply to me. It may claim to be about painting, but we know there’s more to it than that, right? Indeed: it’s about finding your visual voice, and that’s something you want to do whether you’re painting or drawing, sculpting or doing fabric work. We all have a visual voice, but sometimes we need help hearing it. That’s where this book comes in.

I, for instance, had never thought about whether my visual voice is internally focused or externally focused. And I hadn’t given much thought to where I get ideas. Here’s the first paragraph of the first chapter: “Discover Your Sources of Inspiration”

A first step in discovering your visual voice is identifying your sources of inspiration. Where do your ideas about what and how to paint come from? Sources of inspiration are determined by your personality, thoughts, ideas, experiences and preferences. They come from your core–who you are–and speak to you through your visual voice. They are heart choices, not head choices. If you choose to go against your intuitive, visual voice, you will miss the satisfaction and deep joy that painting can bring.

Change the word “painting” to “art-making,” and you’re on your way. This book provides exercises:








and interviews (which I love, of course):


In short, pretty much everything you’d want in a guide to finding out more about doing what you do in your own unique way.

 Here’s a link to order the book–for only $10, and how cool is that? It’s spiral-bound, so it will lie flat on your studio table.


Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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