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  • Helen English Artist

What makes the artist?

So, having pondered on the depth of creative projects last week, I was back to thinking about the development of artists’ voices. When you think about the artists whose work you know, from historical world-renown artists to local artists, the recognisability of their work is key. Much of this is certainly different to the realism that we often demand of ourselves when we create our own work.


Since the completion of my Master of Education in 2019, I have been involved in teaching longer series of visual art workshops with a franchise organisation. Classes vary in size from six up to twenty students so I have had the chance to both discuss art education in environments which are as concentrated as during my research and also see how a larger group builds a network with each other and the comments which they make to me over a period of three months.


During these classes, similar outcomes emerge to those I saw during my research. There is a growth in confidence, both artistically and in a wider sense. Social bonds grow in class and the newby artists develop a support network and encourage each other to grow in confidence and the ability to take risks. Finally, the students develop skills which are really apparent over that longer period of time.


The skill set is a multi-faceted animal. Everyone appears with a different background and, within this, they each find that various tasks and mediums appeal to and challenge them in different ways. The common threads which occur are a growing self confidence in personal style. There are two aspects which I try to convey as I educate students in in visual art. The first is tool skills, which are the development of fluency with pencils, pastels and paintbrushes as well as other tools and paint mediums as relevant. The second is creative flow, or artist’s voice, where the artist develops their individual style and creativity. Both are important and both rely on each other.


I seek to encourage the develop the practice of skills, really paying attention to detail as fundamental tasks are completed, and then I openly promote artistic risk-taking! Without trying ideas out and pushing boundaries, you cannot find out what you are truly capable of. Beyond that, you might just find out what you enjoy most and discover unexpected things which you can take back to a more reduced practice if that is where your voice lies. Along the way, you may just find out who you are when you have those art tools in your hands. May you show your creative hand in whatever you do!

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