Ni’s Sharing Thoughts:Finding Your Own Voice In Your Art!

©Ni Carnahan 2012-2014 All Rights Reserved.版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利! Ni Button Illustration Banner 2014

©Ni Carnahan 2012-2014 All Rights Reserved.
版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!
Ni Button Illustration Banner 2014
Mixed Media with real buttons

Once every two weeks on Saturday, I am going to share my creating process,thoughts, or art experiences on a well-established illustration website created by professional illustrator Anais Lee called “Illustration Today 插畫生活 ” in Mandarin. I was honored to accept my favorite illustrator Ariel Pang for my  first interview on the website and share my experience of how to be a self-taught artist back in October last year. (Please click here to view it in English on my blog. ) Anyway, I then decided to learn from others and share my experiences from time to time on their website. I am going to share another life experience as an illustrator with you guys. Here is my English version.(Please click here to see this post in Mandarin on Illustration Today website!)

Today, I want to share my thoughts and personal experiences about how to find your own voice in your art!

In my opinion, you can learn art skills at schools or by yourself as an self-taught artist,but you might not be able to find your own style in your arts easily.

There is no teacher or school can teach you the style that is best fit you, rather you should be the one to discover and explore all the possibilities for yourself.

Some may find it right away,but others may take a longer time in the process. 

I certainly did not have my own style until I combined real buttons and my handwritten Chinese calligraphy with my illustrations few years back.Then, one step at a time, I have developed my early stage of style in my creating process over the years. Yet, I am still cultivating my skills and styles as I go as I have different styles that I am still exploring with. It all take time to develop them one by one.

For now, I have been developing my circle face girl with music notes of hands and feet with real buttons, other craft items,and my handwritten calligraphy. It has been a fun journey trying out different possibilities. I know that I will continue to develop my style and have fun with the process.

Recently, I have many people commented on my art as “unique” and “different” whenever I share my illustrations online or in person. They always think my artworks are different from others,and easy to recognize as my styles. These comments have provided me a strong self-confident and have kept me going.  I don’t have any formal training in skills, so sometime I feel that I am not good enough. However, to be able to know that at least I have my own voice in my artworks is such a great compliment for Ni. And, it really keep me going because I know that I am on the right track,and should have fun in the process of developing my style.

Most of us start out copying artists that we admire the most because their styles are what we want to have.  I remember my favorite illustrator Ariel Pang also mentioned that it was good to copy from masters because you can learned so much through this process. However, you will somehow lost yourself in the process if you just keep coping others’ styles instead of finding your own in my experience.

It is always great to copy and learning from  your favorite artists, but you will need to eventually find your own style and create your own version of arts.

That is what WE as artists’ final goal, don’t you think?

©Ni Carnahan 2013. All Rights Reserved. Ni's illustration-Imagination 2011-2013

©Ni Carnahan 2013. All Rights Reserved.
版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!
Ni’s illustration titled “Imagination” 2011-2013
Mixed Media

After I came to America,  I fell in love with American Greeting card legend Mary Engelbreit’s heartwarming greeting card designs.

I then created lots of illustration just like her styles,and learned from her. I thought that this was the style that I wanted my art to look like at the time.  However, I realized that I was just a copy cat as soon as people commented about how my artworks looked “just like Mary Engelbreit”. I then started to spend lots of time and effort trying to figure out how to come up with my own style.

Be honest, it was not an easy task as I kept going back to her style. I failed many times,and got so frustrated and discouraged during this process.

Eventually, I was able to learn from my mistakes and spent lots of time and effort to develop my own style.

I am still exploring and enhancing my style as I go,but at least no one ever tell me that my artworks look like her any more.

Instead, they all mentioned that my arts are different,and some of them who know me well can see my personality shine through my arts as it is the greatest compliment for me.

All I am saying is that it is really all right to coping and learn from your role models,but don’t lose yourself in this process.

Here are some of my humble experiences that I have learned from my struggle of finding my own styles throughout the years.

©Ni Carnahan 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved.版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利! Ni's Inspired by Nature Series 2013 My sketches of Acorns and leaves Pen and Ink

©Ni Carnahan 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved.
版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!
Ni’s Inspired by Nature Series 2013 My sketches of Acorns and leaves from life
Pen and Ink

The first step that I took was sketching daily,and always sketch everything from life if possible, do lots of researches and sketches before creating my own version of subjects, and truly open my eyes to find inspiration around me in everyday life.

Like I said before, as I was trying to learn from Mary, I copied everything she drew from her illustrations and greeting card designs. I meant “everything”. Soon, I noticed that I was just her copy cat. So, I decided to go back to my sketchbook to sketch,and started to learn how to do research the things that I would put into my illustration before I illustrated my own version of them. It is pretty time-consuming,but it is the best way to find your own interpretations for any thing that you want to add into your illustrations.

So, why not take out your sketch book, and start to find things to sketch in daily life.  For me, Nature is the best inspirational place to turn to, so I like to go to nature and find inspiration. Also, make it into a hobby to sketch daily if possible. You will benefit from it as much as I do especially as an self-taught artist who has no strong foundation in art skills. For example, if I want to draw oak leaf and acorn, I would spend time to learn about them first, sketch them, and eventually create my own version of them for my illustration. 

In all, you should continue to educate yourself in your creative process, yet challenge yourself to come up with your own version by putting lots of researches and doing sketches first. 

Remember, practice makes perfect,and don’t be afraid to fail as you will learn the most from your mistakes!

©Ni Carnahan 2013. All Rights Reserved.版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!! Ni's A Moment In Life 15-2013 Pen and Ink

©Ni Carnahan 2013. All Rights Reserved.
版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!!
Ni’s A Moment In Life 15-2013
Pen and Ink

The second step that I took was embracing who I am,and put my personality into my artworks,and find out what I love and put these elements into my creations!!

We are all very different individuals. There is no one like you. You like things that only you like, and you love to do things that only you love to do. So, it should show in your creative personality as well. In this step you should really think about who you are,and what you like. Then, put your unique personality  into your artworks, add what you love into your artworks, and just be yourself really. It may take a while to figure out that,but start with small elements,and gradually put more and more into your creative process.

As you all know that I used to create lots of Japanese comic back in Taiwan. So, I was trying to get rid of this style when I decided to become an illustrator. I thought that illustration should be colorful and not black & white with patterns. It was quite a struggle at the time because I LOVED black and white and patterns line works. Then, I discovered many artists and illustrators who create only black and white or love using line works for their illustrations. It was a such great relief to know that I actually could keep this skill of mine. So, I spent lots of time trying to figure out what I should do to combine this skill into my illustrations. It turns out that I am much comfortable with this style,and I have found a great way to create some of the illustrations using this style so far.

So, you should never get rid of anything that you love. Instead, you should find a way to use it as your secret weapon.

©Ni Carnahan 2013. All Rights Reserved. Ni Carnahan's B&W illustration titled "Reborn with Love" close up 2013 Pigment Liners

©Ni Carnahan 2013. All Rights Reserved.
版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!!

Ni Carnahan’s B&W illustration titled “Reborn with Love” close up 2013
Pigment Liners

Another example is that I love real buttons! They fascinating me with their different shapes,styles,and colors. I collect buttons whenever I can.

Some years ago,  I decided to try out my illustration with real buttons. It has been a fun process,and I have been exploring this combination ever since.

Now, I am featuring my Button Illustration and Button Girls Series as my unique styles and I am continuing to explore all sorts of possibilities with real buttons.

©Ni Carnahan 2012-2014 All Rights Reserved.版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利! Ni Button Girl Pink 2012-2014 Mixed Media with real buttons

©Ni Carnahan 2012-2014 All Rights Reserved.
版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!
Ni Button Girl Pink 2012-2014
Mixed Media with real buttons

Same thing with my hand written Chinese calligraphy.

I have always wanted to practice my Chinese calligraphy,but I never thought my passion for it has added a whole new look for my illustrations.

I was practicing my calligraphy one morning back in 2013. I spent lots of time and effort trying to learn Chinese Oracle Bone Scripts and Chinese Bronze Inscriptions because I was fascinated by their unique characters,and wanted to learn more about it. At that time, I was working on my 2013 Asian Button Girl Series. Then, I was sort of playing my handwritten characters with one of my Asian Button Girls. It turned out to be yet another possible combination for my artworks. I totally fell in love with this combination,and completed this series with all 6 handwritten Chinese characters of mine. I am very satisfied with this result.

Now, I am continuing to explore and develop these two styles of mine,and can’t wait to see what else I will be able to come up with along the way.

©Ni Carnahan 2013 All Rights Reserved. Ni Carnahan's Asian Button Girls01-Faith092013

©Ni Carnahan 2013. All Rights Reserved.
版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!請尊重藝術家的著作權以及版權!!
Ni Carnahan’s Asian Button Girls 01-Faith 信仰/信心 with my handwritten Chinese Bronze Inscription 信(harmony/peace) 2013
Mixed Media

Also, being a Taiwanese girl, I have come to realized how lucky that I am able to use my background and my experience in Taiwan to enhance my creations. I don’t want to lose the connection of my root,rather I embrace it and embark my artworks for who I am. Having be able to live both in Taiwan and America, I am fortunate enough to gain my art experiences through two different cultures. So, embrace who you are and what experiences that you have in your life and turn them into your best inspiration.

©Ni Carnahan 2013. All Rights Reserved. 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!!  Ni's Button Illustration-Pattern Love set 2013 Mixed Media

©Ni Carnahan 2013. All Rights Reserved.
版權所有© 妮·康納漢- 保留所有版權權利!!
Ni’s Button Illustration-Pattern Love set 2013
Mixed Media

These are what I had done to encourage myself to find my own voice in my artworks through my creating life. I am no expert,and just want to share my thoughts and experiences with you.

Everyone is different,but these tips work for me personally. I hope by sharing these tips through my experiences, you will be able to find your own way of doing it.

Please feel free to share you own experience for this topic with others!!

Happy finding your own voice when you create!

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2 thoughts on “Ni’s Sharing Thoughts:Finding Your Own Voice In Your Art!

    • Thank you,Neely! ^___________^ It was my pleasure to share whatever I can with others even thought I don’t really have much experiences compare to other professional illustrators. But, I can share what I can,and hopefully, I will be able to share more along the way. It is an honored to be able to work with Illustration Today. Happy creating!

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