This past year, I spent a great deal of time trying to refine and clarify my artistic voice. I really love a minimalist style and thought my art should reflect that. A concerted effort to fit my art into a very tight mold frustrated me beyond belief. I wound up being completely blocked because I became so focused on what I should be designing that I lost sight of what I love designing. I didn’t produce ANY art I loved for about 4 months because I became focused on my brand aesthetic rather than the joy of designing.
Several months later, I’m back to working regularly – designing things I love without overthinking my aesthetic. What I’ve discovered is that my true artistic voice was waiting to be found right in my portfolio. Rather than spending hours trying to find things I love and then trying to make my art reflect those, I really needed to spend a few hours just looking at my own work and remembering what things made me happiest when I designed them.
So now I’m fully engaged again and designing things on a daily basis. I have a process I love (one that fits quite nicely into my limited time) and a clear view of where my brand is going. The print at the header of this post is just an example of my past work that is now shaping my future designs. I am inspired by the artwork of Japanese kimono – and the design above incorporates peony blossoms with a gold herringbone pattern on a navy blue background. That one print says it all about my brand: Global inspiration, floral motifs, neutral color palettes. Those are the three things I came up with when I did the really in-depth brand aesthetic exercises this summer. It became paralyzing because I added “minimalist” to the mix and really tried to take that “neutral color palette” thing too literally.
I became so overwhelmed with trying to force my designs into those three categories PLUS the neutral/minimal thing that I simply couldn’t produce anything. Do I love a minimalist aesthetic? Yes, but it’s not who I am way down deep in my artistic soul. I love minimalism because it keeps the clutter away and it keeps things simple so I am not distracted while I create. I love neutral colors because one or two strong colors pop so well against them. Working in a minimalist space surrounded by neutral colors enables me to produce vivid and sumptuous designs that are anything but minimalist and neutral. They are global, floral, and not your standard neutral.
With this new lease on creativity, I can create designs I love – and ones that are marketable. For example, the print in the banner heading has been on a selling-run lately. When I saw it start to really rise to the top in my most popular designs I realized that I created that print LONG before I tried to clarify my aesthetic. It still fits with my portfolio and it is a nice reminder of why I love doing this so much.
So rather than trying to make art that fits into what I think my aesthetic should be, I create art I love and somehow it all manages to fit together – because it’s authentically me. It’s my artistic voice because it’s what I do organically. So if you’re trying to “brand” yourself as a designer or artist, look back at your portfolio first – then let that guide your aesthetic – you can only be who you are as an artist – not who you think you should be.