The Crossroads Of Conflicting Voices In Your Art

Nancy Hillis
Jul 22, 2018 · 3 min read
Conflicting Voices In Your Art
Conflicting Voices In Your Art

I want to share with you some thoughts about how working with and finding yourself in unknown territory in your art can open you up to deeper experimentation. At first, when you try something unfamiliar, it can feel scary and intimidating. You may feel frustrated because you don’t know exactly what to do. Your usual marks, moves and tools may no longer “work” for you on this particular painting. In this state of not knowing, you may begin to feel restless or anxious. One of the things that can arise is a feeling of confusion. You may begin to second guess what you’re doing and end up trying all sorts of things simultaneously on the same painting. Conflicting impulses or voices may emerge and you end up with a chaotic mashup of marks, brushstrokes and passages that are at odds with one another. In this maelstrom you may be struggling to express several ideas or feelings and you’re not sure which to focus on.

The crossroads of conflicting voices

Every artist has been there. I think we find ourselves at various times facing the crossroads of conflicting voices. Noticing this, we can step back, take a deep breath and start again.

Oftentimes, we’re trying to express many feelings, memories, narratives or ideas at once.

One thing that can be helpful is to bring out an art journal and quickly sketch or write about the various ideas that are coming up and pushing for expression.

This becomes a record of your flow of ideas, some of them conflicting.

Simplicity & Constraint In Your Art

You may consider applying the concepts of simplicity and constraint to your record of ideas. The notion here is for there to be one predominant, big idea for each painting.

For example, it might be color fields or it could be a dark value painting. It can be anything. The idea is to bring in constraint. This way, all the ideas that were being painted at once get distributed to many canvasses.

In other words, each idea has its own canvas rather than many ideas on one canvas.

I think this experience of chaos often happens when there are many ideas, many feelings to express and you want to express them all.

But have no worries. You can express these feelings and ideas over many canvasses.

Working with constraint is a powerful concept to help you express your overarching idea/feeling for a painting rather than trying to express numerous ideas/feelings all at once on a single painting.

The most important thing is that it’s in the doing, in the struggle, in the journey, in the process of creating art, that discovery and surprise happens and new works emerge.

This is the life of being an artist. Keep up your journey of self expression and exploration.This is where the magic is.

From my studio to yours,


P.S. If you’d like to go deeper in your journey of self expression as well as be inspired and motivated to create art consistently, my monthly online abstract painting workshop, Studio Journey, is now OPEN for enrollment. Click >>> HERE to learn more.

Originally published at Nancy Hillis.