Thursday, March 3, 2011

Authentic Voice--Conversation Continued

You Know Who You Are, ©2004, Hannah K. Hunter, Mixed Media
A little while back, artist Leslie Miller wrote an intriguing post which she titled, "Seeking My Authentic Voice."  She wrote that: Voice isn’t style, voice isn’t principals and elements of design, voice isn’t content, but the language we use to express our authentic voice includes all of these. Authentic voice is something more elementary than this, it’s something closer to primal, closer to the earth, and it is uniquely yours.

A series of comments followed her post and carried the conversation in a variety of different directions. So many that, Miller chose to write another post based on the comments.

Titled "Artful Conversations," it included this one by  Robert Kingston:

I always noticed an awkward, clumsy mark or move that kept showing up in my work and I felt that if I could just get rid of that my work would be so much better. No matter what I tried though, that clunky thing kept popping up again and again! It took me years until it finally dawned on me that that odd goofy thing was actually me! Everything else was just me putting on other people's clothes. Now I try to embrace who and what I am although it's still so easy to forget and to fall into emulating the flavor of the month.

His comment dug in deep.

I've been asking myself, what are my awkward marks?  Lines that look like they've been turned inside out? The way in which drawing a circle, I stop just short of closing it? How about those dreadfully muddy maroons that reoccur over and over in my palette?

Could it be true that those odd goofy things are actually me?

Might it also be true that, within the awkward lines and idiosyncratic fingerprints we leave in our work, dwells a source of our greatest strength as artists?
If it is true that those awkward marks make us who we are--how can we maximize their contribution within our work?

I don't have answers to these questions, so I'm asking you:

What "mistakes" persist in your work that could serve as a source of discovery?

I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. I personally love the mistakes in artwork - it reminds me of the Quaker quilts where one square was purposely made to not match as a reminder that they thought only their god was perfect.

    Sometimes I find it is my awkward or unintended mark that makes it all the more complete.

    Sometimes I don't like my imperfections, but I think that is only natural. I encourage myself and others to hold onto their "dislike" pieces and put them out of sight for some time. Then revisit them. Sometimes I still dont like them and I don't keep them, But sometimes time has made me perceive them differently - beautifully.

  2. I like that thought about the Quaker quilt--like the Amish and the Navajo. I think earlier cultures had an appreciation for mystery and doubt. And it's true isn't it?--Sometimes mistakes can be embraced--and sometimes they need to be put away, to be "re-viewed" with perspective of time.

  3. Hi Hannah: Roberts comment really hit home for a lot of people. We reject the very gift we are given. Seeing that in a new light helps. I work with very little color or contrast. Sometimes it is a challenge to embrace that, but it is who I am am.

    If this work has your "muddy maroons" - I like it!

  4. Isn't that the truth Leslie?--At least for me, that "gift" is often the hardest one to accept. With regard to working with little color or contrast; it is something I admire greatly in your work.

  5. Hannah, I always love your blog posts! I had to accept early on (in the film days) that I was not what one would call a "technical" photographer. What this led to were images that were grainy and a little soft. This is now part my style and I love that I feel free to focus on the creative side of photography while letting go of trying to master skills I probably don't need.

  6. Wow, Hannah, first I love your mixed media piece! My media has changed so much over the years...for a long time it was textiles and dyes had a way of pleasantly surprising me, as did unexpected marks and tears in paper. I always felt that the "goofs" were doorways and windows and opportunities really to let the art share a voice with me. Now, photography is where I focus visually...and because I am completely untrained as a photographer "goofs" happen all the time...they are often caused because the car I'm in is moving or the windows I'm shooting through are dirty...but I like that...I love the isn't clear in all moments...things are always in motion and not in our control...I guess that is how my voice shines through still...I am not in control, but I am present and open to whatever surprises end up in my photographs.

  7. Dianne--I'm taken with the fact that you accept the soft grainyness of the photos--which leads to your signature style. Wonderful!

    Laura: Mistakes as doorways and windows for the art to share a voice with you--such a rich perception and one that I will try embracing. Thank you.

  8. Hannah, I love this piece. The colors, the frame within the frame of the artwork and your mix of textures and materials...really wonderful. I have always thought that the leaving of an imperfect square was beautiful and close to my heart, especially when I see things in nature that no man could create or improve upon. I have found that the mistakes in my art have often led to the most imaginative and creative results. Things I could never have planned appear when I have to solve an unforeseen problem. Thank you for this post, it is a vote of confidence for every artist filled with self doubt.

  9. Often what we see as mistakes in our pieces are to others beautiful, interesting and necessary.

  10. Beth--I echo what your say about leaving the imperfect square. There is something so satisfying about randomness.

  11. Amy--I hear you--it's the old thing of not being able to look at oneself with the perspective of another.

  12. Hannah, this is a particularly appealing piece. I love the colors, and the image is comforting, somehow. Nice work.

    I think it's interesting how we still cling to the idea of "mistakes." We are so focused on labeling everything as "right" or "wrong." For me, attempting to let go of judgment is paramount in art (and life!)