In September of 2021 I began to question whether or not my artwork would ever fall into a category that I could refer to as My Own Style. Sure, I had tons of architectural drawings that followed a pattern of precise line and color choices, but something inside of me always knew my true potential was being held hostage. Eventually, my inner voice began to shout at me, saying, “Enough is enough!” Over the past couple of months, I had multiple people confront me about the architecture facades I repetitively drew, indicating they were unoriginal and simply not me. Blunt, but true—It was the tough love I needed and the same honest love I received from coaches throughout my college years. All signs were pointing to a need for change, but knowing what to change was the hardest part. All I could think about was how stagnant my art business had become because of my failure to share any kind of unique creative vision.
Luckily, my inner voice calmed down enough for me to drop my guard and we had a heart to heart. I gave in and finally began to draw in a style that felt comfortable for me. Architecture continued to be my focus, but now actually seeing the world around me in a different way. Rather than drawing in my studio, I went out on the streets of Phoenixville and drew what was around me. I took in the sights and the sounds, which helped guide my hand in all sorts of new directions on the page. Instead of drawing what I was looking at, I now drew my reaction to what I was looking at. All of my straight lines started to bend and perspectives began to change. I even went from drawing with tiny, precise, micron pens to a flowing fountain pen, which allowed me to use a greater variety of expression in my lines. I found my unique style, and in doing so, I discovered my voice.
The answer to whether or not I had a unique style was sitting in front of me for the past six years. There were fleeting moments when I thought I might be on to something, but fear almost always took over and my old stylistic tendencies took the wheel. The only time I gave myself permission to draw in a style I now call my own is when there weren’t any outcomes associated with it.
So, basically, I was doing my most authentic work and feeling zero pressure only when I was playing around. Oh, the irony! Perhaps, the most amazing part of it is that the artworks I created during my “playtime” happened to be some of my favorites ever created. Even the people closest to me would tell me they liked those pieces more than the realistic stuff I was creating on a day-to-day basis. So, why didn’t I listen?
I’m still trying to answer the question, “Why didn’t I listen?” Why didn’t I change the course of my artwork sooner and create work that: 1) Made me happy; 2) Authentically represented my voice as an artist; and 3) Produced work I (and others) considered to be more interesting?
Part of it goes back to my childhood. I was a people-pleaser. I’ve always been someone who wanted to create a harmonious outcome for everyone no matter what the situation. Conflict was to be avoided at all costs and confrontation was a shameful venture. Creating artworks in a concise and predictable style was an exact metaphor for the type of person I personified for most of my life. Most of my old work looks exactly like the thing it is supposed to represent; pets, houses, landscapes, etc. Who could get upset with that, right? Subconsciously, I think my commissions were a way to receive the praise I never felt from within. It took me six years to stand up for myself and finally say, “I’m shutting them down for good.”
As I settle into my own style, I finally feel like I’m in a place I can call home. I’m grateful for the many phases I’ve gone through as an artist these past 25+ years, and I know that each of those years was necessary to get me to where I am today. Some people find their unique voice and style after a few years of working as an artist. Others, like me, may take decades. If you’re like me, I advise you stay the course and keep following that voice you hear telling you to shift gears. Get good, and I mean REALLY freaking good at listening to your inner voice and all your fear will eventually leave you. It may mean scrapping an entire business model you’ve used for the past several years, but whatever time you have left on this earth is all you have to make it count. Leave nothing on the table. Plus, think of all the skills you’ve already amassed just from showing up all those years prior. I plan on returning with a vengeance, and if you’re reading this then you know I’ve already accomplished my first major goal of creating an artist community here on Patreon—something that used to terrify me before I found my voice.