Finding Your Visual Voice – review

By | 21 November 08

Finding Your Visual Voice: A Painter’s Guide to Developing an Artistic Style

Book CoverAlmost every book about succeeding as a full-time artist tells you to have a “cohesive body of art”  before approaching a gallery.

That means at least eight to ten paintings in the same style.

However, if you’re like me, you just paint. You don’t think about style.  And, if that’s working for you, that’s fine, but it wasn’t working for me.

I painted realistically for many years, and then realized that I’m more comfortable with a less photographic style. Since I love Impressionist paintings by Monet and Bonnard, I read lots of books about that style of painting and incorporated their tips in my own work.

My art was often well-reviewed and sold in shows. My best works sold for (and were appraised at) about $500. “Not bad,” I thought. It validated me as an artist, and it paid the bills.

Then, I decided to become professional about marketing my art… and I hit a creative wall. Nothing about my art stood out, to distinguish it from… well, every other competent, semi-Impressionist painter of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

After looking at this book in the bookstore for several weeks, I bought a copy.

Then, I glanced at it every few months, got overwhelmed, and put it down again.

Finally, something clicked, and I began reading the book and answering the questions in it. I also looked for more art by the featured artists, to see why I like their work, and what it has in common with my past (and most successful) drawing and painting styles.

All of a sudden, the lights came on. I understood where I needed to go with my art.

For me, it explained how my plein air1 studies connect both my Tonalist2 and Semi-representational3 works. It showed me the areas where I need to practice more, to improve my art. I gave me a sense of the elements in my work that could make a show cohesive, and how I can improve my personal artistic voice to stand out in the crowd.

I stopped being stuck as an artist, and started learning my craft again. I’m growing by leaps and bounds as an artist.

I won’t claim that this book was the complete answer, but it was definitely a pivotal element in resolving my long-term dilemmas and confusions as an artist.

If you’re not sure where you’re going with your art, and you need to clarify that to take your next step as a professional, I highly recommend


  • Discover your unique, personal style as an artist.
  • Many styles represented; can be overwhelming at first.
  • Vital for artists who need a cohesive body of work.


Order a copy or read others’ reviews at or


1 Plein air (also “en plein air”) means to paint on location, generally outdoors. It’s different from paintings created from memory or sketches, or in the studio using photographs as reference. The phrase, “plein air,” is generally pronounced like “plain air” or “plehn air.”

2 Tonalist paintings tend to be landscapes with soft focus and a limited range of colors that represent the light and dark (tone) of the subject. Tonalism was popular during the same era as Impressionism, and the two sometimes overlap.

3 Semi-representational paintings are usually very stylized and almost abstract, but the viewer can usually guess what the subject is.

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