A couple of years ago, I took a workshop called “Fine-tune Your Artistic Voice” taught by ceramicist, Elaine Henry. At the time, I didn’t think I had an artistic voice—I felt very much like a copyist.

I had been taking lots of classes on CreativeBug (like Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook Explorations) and most of my drawings looked like a bad copy of Lisa’s. Actually, all my art looked like someone else’s. My polymer clay creations looked similar Laurie Mika’s. My mixed media paintings loosely resembled Kelly Rae Roberts’ work. These were my teachers and I was a good student. I learned their techniques and assimilated their styles.

But I felt like a fraud. I was sure that there was an original artist inside me if I could only figure out how to set her free!

When I set foot in Elaine’s classroom at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, I felt intimated. Her course was called “Fine-tune Your Artistic Voice” and I was pretty sure I didn’t have an artistic voice at all! Still, there I was, hopeful that I could learn how to express my own unique artistic vision.

Our teacher urged us to be alert to moments of “aesthetic ecstasy.” (What a great turn of phrase, no?) Aesthetic ecstasy is that feeling you get when you see something beautiful and it speaks so strongly to your soul that you just want to squeal (at least, that’s how it feels to me).

Once I started looking for those surges of joy that signaled my aesthetic ecstasy, I was able to pay attention to what aspects of beauty were speaking to me.

Pretty soon, I had a list that included words like colorful, expressive, whimsy, nature, layers, and spiritual—just to name a few. With my list of words, I was able to access specific techniques and subjects and media that helped me to express those words in my own art.

Now I see my artistic vocabulary in practically every piece I create—those words are intrinsic to my work as an artist. Even though I feel I’m still developing my voice, I now have a style that is all my own.

What about you? What has your journey to developing your own style and voice been like?


  • Oh Tara I love this blog! And I recognise everything-
    I think I do have a voice, a specific style- and it doesnt matter what technique I use, it shimmers through every piece of art I make, if it is an illustration, a commission, or a painting I make just for the sake of making it.

    And now I am going to art journal about the aesthetic ecstasy <3

    Love! Mieke

  • I love this post and it hits home. I recently felt that aesthetic ecstasy for the first time, so I think I know what you mean. I’m trying to move out of copiest mode though and mostly still feel a little stuck. But, your post helps!

  • I resonate with this so much (as you know!) I’ve been a technician for most of my creative life, and now I’m starting to learn how to let it rip and let that voice inside me sing. Still not there yet, but you’re encouraging me on the journey!

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