by Yasmin Melean
When I started learning colored pencils around 2014-15, a series of factors -spare time, info about them, handy art supplies—conjugated to create the right environment for me to dive into my art journey. At the time I didn’t know a thing about style, didn’t even worry about it. I had just discovered that it was possible to create wonderful photo-realistic artworks using only colored pencils, I was in awe and eager to learn as much as possible, my dream of learning to dance with my colored pencils had just started to become true, bye-bye two left feet.
“I couldn’t identify any other factor that could help me to define my artistic style and what’s more, I was having troubles trying to understand how I would develop one, what it even meant.”
“Berries” was the first artwork to enter in a contest and to post online (it surprised me with an Honorable Mention in the beginner category). Although it was done after the flower, you can appreciate the contest pushed me to excel myself.
Short after I had done a few drawings/paintings, the seed of doubt was sown, I began to wonder about my progress and direction, but thanks to the internet I discovered online colored pencil groups, magazines and even gathered my courage to participate in contests. It is difficult to take that first step when you are introverted and don’t know what to expect, but once in, I felt relieved and encouraged by the amazing colored pencil community to continue working harder in my skills thanks to their positive and kind feedback.
I remember the longer I interacted with colored pencil artists, the more I learned about colored pencils including tricks that you don’t find in your average colored pencil book. However, one thing started to bother me: they were also talking about personal styles and I had none and no idea how to develop one despite their advice. Although I was very keen in learning realism, I couldn’t identify any other factor that could help me to define my artistic style and what’s more, I was having troubles trying to understand how I would develop one, what it even meant.
In order to practice realism I used to copy reference photos as close as possible. An example is my dresses artwork (left) next to the original reference (right). However, with time I found myself longing to create my own compositions (birds work).
The lack of an identifiable style from my side began to stress me, especially because I had been working with the medium for a while and I wasn’t a beginner anymore. I thought I should have grown not only my skills, but also have established a very clear style. Nobody says that should be the case, but sometimes we imagine things in a certain way and if we don’t attain that dream we start to stress and unfortunately some people even give up halfway through. My advice? Remember to always be kind to yourself as many factors play in your progress. If you haven’t reached the level you want, don’t worry, give yourself more time and take it easy, you will get there.
“This more relaxed path of accepting where my art sits at, without worrying if I have a style or is the one I want, allows me to express myself better and add that touch of authenticity that I am in search of which I’m sure will lead me to the style I will, one day, recognize as mine.”
Anyway, I had to vent with other colored pencil artist friends my frustration, when to my surprise, they pointed out that I did have a style and they were able to identify it. Yay!, I have a style -really?- but I still didn’t recognize it. Thinking in retrospective, perhaps I didn’t identify myself with my own style as it wasn’t reflecting part of me (or the part that I wanted?). You see, most of the time I was using reference photos to learn realism (photo-realism if possible) so I was basically copying all the little details from the photo without or only a few minor changes. There is nothing wrong with that if you love it, but it wasn’t enough for me anymore. The lack of an original component, the me part, was missing for what I wanted as my artist’s signature. At the time I didn’t realize what I just mentioned, and it is by writing these lines that I am becoming aware of those subtle details.
Two of my recent works. They reflect a new phase in my art that I like because I feel my emotions are expressed in them. I use rich colors and strong lights to give a sense of energy and power. My style? Too early to say.
To complete the picture, I had already an online presence on Facebook so I was also sticking to the rule of publishing frequently. Sure, I was getting good at realism, capturing all the details of the reference photo, but the initial satisfaction wasn’t there anymore. I wanted to produce something more original for myself and others to enjoy. The reality is, for some people is easier to come with those great compositions, new ideas, artworks, while for others like me, well, it isn’t. Slowly started to publish less, to do fewer artworks, was lacking of motivation and quite busy with daily life. I didn’t completely stop, but the good thing is posting less frequently did help me to relax.
Then one day it hit me, I was enthusiast about painting again, I felt thirsty for richer colors in my artworks, I wanted strong colors even if it didn’t look natural/realistic. I knew what I wanted to do, but again was concerned about the people who were already following me, I didn’t want to disappoint them. Doubts, negative thoughts had to be brushed aside. I decided that I was going to be true to myself, swallowed my fears and expressed myself through color.
So far I have done 4-5 colorful artworks, however I don’t see them as my style, more of a phase reflected in my art journey. This more relaxed path of accepting where my art sits at, without worrying if I have a style or is the one I want, allows me to express myself better and add that touch of authenticity that I am in search of which I’m sure will lead me to the style I will, one day, recognize as mine.
ABOUT YASMIN MELEAN:
Yasmin Melean currently lives in Canberra, Australia. Her curious nature and love for continuous learning lead her to obtain a Ph.D. in Physics and become a self-taught artist. She likes to work with a wide variety of media and subjects, being colored pencils her preferred medium and portraiture a recurrent theme. Her works have been featured and published in international publications.
See more at: https://www.facebook.com/MeleanCreationsArt