Forget trying to be Original

photo 3 copy Summer has been so altering, all day to day rhythms asunder, a disconnect from painting, and writing on this blog, and even seeing friends. I’ve been sick for several days with some sort of food poisoning, my dreams have been wild with crazy things I’m responsible for, and the then our neighbor died. Its all got me processing and mulling mentally and emotionally….we had a stay-cation and enjoyed walking in the warm woods, heading to the tea shop, swimming in the lake, eating at cool local restaurants, indulging in window shopping, staring into space, and reading.

Throughout the past few weeks, my mind has been going over Bird By Bird antics (Anne Lamott’s book on writing and life lessons) and also this quote: “Art has no boundaries except those imposed by the needs of the maker.” Its guideline #42 in small book called 101 Things to Learn in Art School, by Kit White. Its suggesting that art work, art expression, the artist, is free. You’re free to make art, however you want to express it. I’d like to figure out how to do that.

But, making something original is hard, maybe impossible, right? We’re all raised looking at everyone’s work. Isn’t everyone responding to fashion? We’re all influenced and our tastes and interests totally shaped by what’s popular, available. This is absolutely going on in the art world. “I’m really into those colors,” is because someone else made them poplar and now you’ve inherited liking them. Same with clothes. Same with cars. Bikes. The one-speed is back, don’t tell me that isn’t born totally of fashion. Otherwise, riding one is ludicrous, hard work that no one would choose over 24 speeds.

Anyway, its hard to take what I’m technically trying to get good at, and overlay it with something original from my own mind. It’s hard to keep painting without knowing its meaningful, expressive of me, rather than just copying what all the painters I like are painting. Still, I’d rather be figuring that bit out, than doing just about anything else these days.

What’s true and meaningful for me today: I am endlessly interested in finding the features and emotion in painting faces.  The technical ability to create dimension and life in a face is truly mesmerizing.

I’m also culminating these two drivers:

1. being a behavioral therapist;

2. my “own” style of painting;

Let’s hope an provocative intersection begins to form…

Heres some odd little paintings done on the fly: photo 1 copy photo 3 photo 2 copy 2 photo 2 copy photo 3 copy


39 thoughts on “Forget trying to be Original

  1. I like that. I’ve actually just written a book that talks about this. It’s called How to Make an Artist Miserable. The Kindle version is free through Wednesday if you’d like to take a look. I also talk about giving up antidepressants in there.

  2. I really like the book, Bird By Bird! Need to revisit it. One thing I especially like about your paintings is they are so FREE! So original to me! An emotional expression from deep within YOU! xo

  3. What a great group of paintings. Those done on the fly can be some of the best – painting more from your gut than your head. The second image (with the crown) is my favourite but they’re all good. Love the chalkboard effect in the background in the 3rd piece. I find your work quite unique. You definitely have an identifiable style. Keep going. You should consider doing a show. Are there therapy related open houses or events you could display at? Here we have “Maritime Art List” that lists art events in the area including calls for submissions. Do you have a source of calls? I’m sure you would have a body of work that you could submit for one of those. Just some thoughts for you. I love your work.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful feedback Kim! A showing, in the next couple years would be fun…once I’ve finished wrestling some of these angsty artsy issues😉. Your insights are awesome💥

  4. The best thing about art is that the artist is the boss, unless it is created on demand for a specific purpose for someone else.

    Your work, Laurel, is unique, it is completely your own style that draws me to it. And yes, that behavioral therapy thing may pay the bills in the meantime. 😀

  5. I love your style! What you are doing works!!! And the “odd little paintings done on the fly” GREAT!!
    I’ve been told to “stop thinking” when it comes to my art work, and just let ‘er rip.
    I look at your paintings and see so much spontaneity. I find that quite admirable.

      1. You’re absolutely welcome!!
        It has been suggested to me on a number of occasions that I… uhhh, loosen up, work more spontaneously.(by artist friends) Thought it’s out of my comfort zone, that advise is exactly what I must work.
        I find your paintings full of spirit and quite charming.

  6. Inspiration has to come from somewhere, we are all touched by different things but can all observe the same nature, sceneries and emotions in people. Each time you modify, add to or re-interpret another artist’s art, you are still advancing a little more. In 5 years from now, you’ll be surprised at how much different you are from others. Don’t despair, you are going somewhere and it is your own art you are sharing here. Best 🙂

  7. I’ve experienced the same issues in my work. I’ve found that if I stopped looking at others art, I could more easily find my true voice. For example I picked up Kelly Rae Roberts book a few years back and found myself trying to copy her style. But it wasn’t me and was making me really unhappy. So I went back to what I know and love in my true heart and that’s painting landscapes and flowers with oil paints. I learned to embrace my own style and forget about what everyone else is doing it really helped.

    As for the summer being filled with all sorts of stuff happening, I’m hearing that from a lot of folks myself included with our wildfire. Something is going on! I hope things calm down for you soon. Embrace those little moments like having tea or swimming in the lake.

    Love the “on the fly” piece!!

    1. Hi, thanks for sharing some of your own process with trying to staying true to your own unfolding style….it’s helpful…and your work is so gorgeous. For me, technical growth is always followed by an angst of finding meaning in the work…it’s very funny and I don’t seem to have much control over it cropping up….more soon😉!🔺

      1. I love your work!! I would say keep working it. I sometimes feel we artists put too much emphasis on “meaning”. It’s the act of creating and the journey through it that’s meaningful. The expression you put into your pieces is wonderful. The emotions come through and it’s what gives it “meaning “.

  8. I really can relate and understand about being free to create your own version and style for expression – you capture this is ways that very few artists can achieve in a lifetime. I’m very sorry to read of your loss, that’s sad and brings a whole different level of emotion that I have a feeling will get expressed in your work.

    1. I’m glad you can relate, Mary, you’re such an amazing painter–
      Is it your perception that a lot of artists haven’t actually resolved the issue of finding their own personal style/expression in their work? 🔺

      1. Thank you so much for you beautiful compliment. Yes, very much so – I think it takes a long time to find our voice as artists. Yours with these portraits is very distinctive, an amazing body of work. I’m still finding my voice, I like a lot of subjects as you can tell and feel that as time evolves my style will emerge. At least that is what I hope for.

  9. Love your words and art. It seems to me that you ARE doing what you aspire to be doing. Tuning in to your unique inner voice. Allowing yourself to follow your inquiring heart, mind and painting hands. And combining painting with an attunement to other people.

  10. I can certainly relate to the question of developing a personal style – I struggle with that myself. For the most part I try to just not think about it and hope one day it will show up and feel right. Actually, I find the ‘not thinking’ the best approach – and a big challenge for me considering I tend to think too much (thus the problems I cause myself…) Anyhow, I really enjoy your work Laurel and your personal style which is very strong in my opinion. I think it’s interesting that you mention the challenge of creating dimension in your faces in your post as it’s something that I have noticed in looking at them. I think you accomplish it in a subtle, but affective manner that keeps the focus on the facial expressions and fits well.

    1. Susanne, thank you for this detailed feedback–and also for sharing the “not thinking” approach to your art process. Just letting it unfold. Technique and Meaning seem to run neck and neck through my mind and heart…it’s great when they both settle into a piece together. Such soulfull satisfying moments for me❤️ Thanks so much for your feedback🔺

  11. I think we all hunger for beauty, and so it is natural for us to be inclined toward what peaks our specific interest. There are certain styles I like and I so I will lean towards those when I do art. I think what makes one stand out as an original, and what puts one’s fingerprint on their art, is the message they portray that comes right from them. I don’t know if that makes much sense? As for me, I know that I want to be intentional in my art. I’m no great artist technically speaking, but what I do, I do with passion, sharing my world-view and thoughts. Ultimately artists can only really share what comes from them. If not, then it is just copying, right? Does that make sense?
    Great post and thoughts.

  12. I am reading Bird by Bird now and am equally inspired by this message. It applies to all aspects of life, really. I love your paintings. Something creepy but pretty about them.

  13. Hi Laurel. Great on-the-fly paintings and I love your unhesitating condemnation of single-speed bicycles! 🙂 When I taught at university I used to say to students not to worry about most of that stuff… or, if you want to worry about it, worry while you’re making more paintings! Two things I think are important here: one is that, even in the USA, we are a whole lot less individual than we would like to think (The Myth of Individualism by Peter Callero is an interesting read) so what makes you you might well be quite similar to what makes other folks other folks. Second I reckon “originality” is very nearly synonymous with “novelty”… a word which seems a whole lot less satisfactory as a goal. I believe the focus on novelty in art is a product of jaded media desperate for the Next New Thing to write about and not something that should distract artists from making what they want or need to make. I’ll get down off my soapbox now.

    1. Sir Lars, I’ll always listen to you on your soapbox. It genuinely helps to hear you suggest putting that kind of angst aside; that individualism shouldn’t be the focus; and that originality may be driven by commercialism. Bleh. I actually feel some relief and some freedom reading your thoughts. I wish you wrote out your perspective more. Or had an online forum. Get a Reddit account? Fondly, 🔺

      1. Thanks Laurel. I’m glad it helps. It’s helped me to ditch those concerns over the years. I do believe that dialogue between artists is essential to balance the messages coming from the “art world” (that is, not art makers). As for the collecting my “pensées” in one place, well, by the time I’d collected them I’d have a whole bunch of new contradictory ones! 🙂

  14. love these paintings! this post resonates……. I think all the ‘copying’ hmm I mean “emulating” lol, is one of the reasons I try to not look too much online, galleries, etc. Being overly influenced out of common sense into what is current and trendy, does not make sense. So, I’m agreeing with you. And this was a fabulous post. Thanks for sharing!!

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