Andrew G. Cooper
Finding Your Artistic Voice
My resolution for 2022 is to be more authentic. But being true to yourself can be difficult, as counterintuitive as that may be. You'd think that being true to yourself should be easy or come naturally, but there are many forces at play that create barriers to being authentic. Peeling those barriers away is a necessary step to finding your voice as an artist.
As I said at the end of last year, I'm dreaming big and part of that is finding my artistic voice. Each of us is unique. Each of us have a unique accumulation of experiences, thoughts, and interests. So we each have a unique voice as storytellers and creators. It's easy to be caught up in the aesthetics or preferences of others. It's easy to create art that you think other people want to see or that gatekeepers want to produce. But, as the great William Shakespeare says, "This above all: to thine own self by true." (Hamlet. Act I, Scene III.)
Here's how I see it: I strive to make the kind of art that I would be really excited to experience. I write stories I'd want to read. I direct plays I'd want to watch. I figure that if I create something that I'm super jazzed about, odds are that there's other people out there who'd be interested in that thing too. I like cool things. I think others will think the things I think are cool are cool too. (Wow, that was quite a sentence...) So my focus is on creating projects that I am passionate about, projects that excite me, projects that ignite me. So make art that comes natural to you. They can be big stories or small stories, but the thing that matters is that they're your stories.
It's hard, but to create art that is excellent (which is definitely a personal goal of mine) you need to do something new. So yes, take inspiration from artists you admire. Draw on art that fills you with wonder and emotions. Then dig deep and listen to your intuition. Listen to yourself. The answers will be there, inside of you.
Here's a couple of quick examples from my past work as a theatre director. When creating the puppets for The Robber Bridegroom I was struck by the idea of puppeteers being PART of the puppet. I came across a photo of someone with a puppet strapped to their waste and found it very captivating. I had never seen this half-body style of puppetry on stage before, but I jumped in and tried it anyway. It took quite a bit of experimenting in rehearsal, but I was very happy with the result and the show got rave reviews in six cities across Western Canada.
For my stage adaptation of Frankenstein, I've been exploring idea of using masks as a metaphor for death. I've trained in mask performance at the Banff Intensive and Loose Moose Theatre, but I haven't seen them used in a traditionally-scripted stage play this way. I'm eager to see how the style is received by audiences in the next production (which is coming up with Jupiter Theatre)!
Unfortunately, I'm not here to tell you how to find your own artistic voice. Your voice is different than mine, it's different than everyone's. But here's a few things that I'm recommending to myself in my pursuit of artistic truth:
Engage in your artistic practise everyday - for me it's writing
Journal everyday (The Artist's Way calls them "Morning Pages")
Develop a regular meditation practice
When making decisions in your art-making process, take the time to listen to yourself. Go with your gut.
Collect art that inspires you (I have a note-taking app on my phone and collect photos and images in google drive folders).
Make art that excites you
Will your art always be easy to make if you stick to your artistic voice? No, probably not. Will it always be excellent? Likely no. But if you find your artistic voice within yourself and chase after it, your art will be true. And truth is the first step towards excellent art.