#023 – Imposing limitations in search of a clear artistic voice

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about something I have been wrestling with in my mind recently. This is the importance of imposing limitations on oneself, in order to find a clear artistic voice. When we can scroll through instagram and see amazing artwork, done in all types of mediums, styles and genres, it’s easy to get lost in the infinite possibility of our potential creative output.

I have never been one of those illustrators who has had an instinctive idea of what my work should look like. Of course, I am very jealous of those people that do. My instinct is to try all possibilities and then decide on what ‘feels’ right. This is fine, but as I am getting older, I am beginning to realise that this never-ending search for different ways, is perhaps starting to work against me creatively.

…it’s easy to get lost in the infinite possibility of our potential creative output.

I think it is stopping me from developing a clearer artistic voice or identity and actually ‘watering down’ my efforts. After all, an artwork is really just a sequence of specific decisions. However, I don’t want to box myself in either – by creating a rigid set of rules and limitations, of which I will get bored of after a couple of weeks. So how can I move my work forward with this conundrum. Surely the answer must lie in finding a balance of the two?

…an artwork is really just a sequence of specific decisions.

I have thankfully decided that watercolour and inks are my preferred medium of choice. I enjoy the way the paint feels as it goes down on the paper, the spontaneous results that can be achieved and the transparency of the paint.

However, other decisions regarding style I find more troubling. I was taught to paint and draw in a ‘western’ way, trying to create a realism in painting. Working from photos seems to make this method easier, though it can often end up looking boring and lifeless. So, I really would like to begin to explore a more stylised approach to my work, which seems to allow for a greater freedom of expression in the long run. But what should influence these stylistic decisions?

I admire the works of Charles Renee Mackintosh and William Morris, two artists who were inspired by the natural world, to create very stylised pieces of art and design. They were also, of course, influenced by the dominant stylistic fashions and wider social concerns of their times.

William Morris, with the British Arts and Crafts movement and socialism. Mackintosh with his mix of Art Nouveau, Japanisme and his philosophy of art for everybody, in the industrial age. When I look at their art, they were both able to impose quite specific restrictions upon their work, such as stylising the shapes of natural forms and using limited colour palettes. This resulted in very concentrated and clear artistic visions, which could seemingly go on forever. I take this as inspiration to impose limitations on my own work, as I know it will make it stronger.

…stylising the shapes of natural forms and using limited colour palettes.

When it comes to finding what these should be for me however, it doesn’t make it much easier. Of course, we live in very different times, with new ideologies and ways of living and it seems from my point of view to be too complicated to get my head around.

I think the only way forward is simply to take one decision at a time. I am going to try playing around with stylising the shapes of some of my work a little more, and drift away from simply trying to depict things with a sense of realism. I hope that my natural intuition can somehow guide me though this process and I can create new work, with a clearer sense of style and artistic voice.


Marcel George is a contemporary watercolour illustrator currently living in London. He studied Illustration at Brighton University and graduated in 2010. He specializes in creating hand painted, contemporary watercolour illustrations.

Discover his portfolio:
marcelgeorgeillustration.co.uk /marcelgeorgeillustration