The Everyday Genius of Your Artist’s Voice: Part 1

Welcome to Part 1 of an eight-part series here on the blog I’m calling “The Everyday Genius of Your Artist’s Voice”!

Below, you’ll see (er, hear) that I recorded this installment… as I will all the others. I’ll put a transcript down at the bottom, for those prefer reading. Now then…

A Good Topic For Conversation

As many of you know I wrote a little eBook called “10 Steps to Finding Your Artistic Voice”. Which lead to an online course at Kelbyone called “Finding Your Artistic Voice.” I even lead a photo retreat in France called “The Artist’s Voice“.

Clearly, this subject strikes a cord with me. And, it would seem, a growing number of others as well. I think alot of people are looking for that “something more” in their photography – and their lives. We all grow, develop and evolve; it’s the nature of art, life and existence here on this lovely planet. This is a nice way to have company on the journey – and some good conversation along the way.

That’s what this whole movement is about. Opening a conversation. Shining a light into the murk. Finding words to express what can be a complex subject in a simple way, so we can ALL play!

8-Part Series

Today marks the beginning of the series. First up: I’ll establish the playing field, which many of you may already be familiar with. But even if you are, it’s always good to refresh. I know I can hear the same thing 10 times and think I got it – then on the 10th iteration, I understand it in a whole new way that rocks my world.

Then… each episode after that will talk about a different “everyday” aspect of photography and art. I’ll share my “Go-to” approaches… and hopefully along the way, show you how your own artistic voice can be woven into just about everything in the most practical ways. When that happens, your whole life starts to feel more authentic, expressive and uniquely your own. Either that, or you might just smile a whole lot more. 😀

Oh – and I mentioned links sometimes in the recording and and promised to share them. Here they are:

My Photographers At Google talk: “Finding Your Soul’s Genius & Voice In Your Photography”
Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk: “Your Elusive Genius”

Today’s recording is about 10 minutes… I’ll keep the others to that length or shorter, out of respect for everybody’s time.
Behind the scenes, I’m developing this work to the next level. I thought it would be fun to share some thoughts along the way.

I love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions and musings!
Leave ’em in the comments below – I read every single one. 😀

Here’s an everyday object; an eyeshadow display at Macy’s in NYC.
I loved it. But the literal translation didn’t convey WHAT it was I loved about it.
This did.

Fujifilm X-T2, 23mm f/1.4 lens.

Because I knew you’d probably ask. 😉

Processing? I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming episode. 😀

Today’s Transcript


We’ll hello! It’s Karen Hutton. Welcome to my blog cast. Today marks the beginning of an eight-part series that I’m calling “The Everyday Genius of Your Artist’s Voice.”

You know I talk about artistic voice all the time – and I know it can get a little bit heady, little swirly and out there. So I wanted to do this series to make it all more practical in everyday ways.

I’ll lay some groundwork today – then through the rest of the episodes, share some of the means and ways it can easily weave into your photography, your art and your life. We’ll have some fun. We’ll have some laughs, learn some stuff and come out on the other side with some new perspectives. And I always think that’s fun. (Like I said fun like, three times in that sentence).

Anyway, today I’m going to define the playing field; the springboard from which all the other leaps will occur. And that means we chat about talk about signature, voice and genius.

I gave a “Photographer Talks at Google” in 2013. It was the first time I laid these things out publicly – that is, other than through my photographic work. Prior to that, this was all just the stuff I knew for myself used in both my own sports and arts careers – as well as all the coaching I did for over 40 years in figure skating, dance, acting, voiceover and coaching voice and on camera performance to TV and radio news broadcasters. (Now I’m exhausted just saying all that). I’ll give you a link for that Google talk in this post in case you want to check it out; all these ideas are in there as well – and spelled out in more detail. The real innovation, if you want to call it that, is creating the breadcrumb trail between all of what came before and the Photographic Arts that we so love today.

This topic is a many-membered beast and it gives a lot of people kind of a swirly head. It can be confusing sometimes. So hopefully this series will be simple, clear some of that up and give you some new ideas.

OK. Back to signature. What does signature mean? Why do we care? How does it appear? How can I get me some? So let me define what I mean by signature. I’m using this definition: “Any unique distinguishing aspect, feature, or mark; like a distinctive pattern, product, or characteristic by which someone or something can be identified.” So that signature. Now, right next to that is genius. Genius is defined as “An exceptional intellectual or creative power – or other natural ability.”

Elizabeth Gilbert did a fantastic TED talk where she talks about this whole concept of genius in really interesting ways. It’s super cool. And I’ll put a link in this post and you can check it out. How I’m talking about genius is some of what she says. But I have had incredible business coaches and mentors and teachers in the past, who have taught me how working within your genius, within what your creative power and natural ability makes everything easier for you. As in; you do your work, but the work you were meant to be doing; not the soul-sucking efforts that most people call work the real world.

Working within your genius defines your work in new and sometimes unexpected ways. It helps you connect with your real audience and clients. Because when you show up with your true self, operating from your true genius, you’re doing what you’re really, really good at and love. And your ideal peeps and audience naturally gravitate towards that.

You shine a little brighter and more authentically all without trying so hard. And it sets up a resonance that people recognize and feel, which naturally draws them to you -and frankly life’s a lot more fun this way. So we want to develop our genius and our signature. We want to nurture them, encourage them. Because both of those things are just another way of finding your voice. It really helps to have multiple ways to go about all this, because you can hear the same thing a different way one day – and all of a sudden BAM! you have a whole new understanding.

In my experience, a true signature bears the mark of our soul. And if you listen to Elizabeth Gilbert; she makes this whole connection between soul and genius. How’s that for starting off with a bang?

Here’s how a signature your real voice can be simply easily understandably seen heard felt and experienced in real life.

For instance you know your mother’s voice on the phone, right? You recognize your husband ,your wife, your lover, your best friend’s footsteps when they walk down the hall, you recognize somebody’s photography when it slides through your social media stream or wherever you happen to see photographs. You start recognizing people’s work because their signature is loud and clear. That is the stamp that lets everyone know it’s you talking. Suddenly, everyone can see you, hear you, smell you a whole lot better. Signature is also a way of seeing the world, being in the world; and it also appears in your photographs.

So what is your signature? I always like to give credit when something really big in my life was given to me. In this case, that someone is an amazing voice coach named Maurice Tobias in Los Angeles.

Now, voiceover is insanely competitive it’s unbelievable. And half the time nowadays we’re competing against celebrities for the same job. So how do we stand out? Well, we have our own highly defined signature because, you see, no one can do us as well as we can. So in that sense, we have no peer. That’s really all we have as artists to make our mark; our artistic voice. The voice of our soul. Our own spark of divine fire. To make it more practical – and this is straight from Maurice – signature voice is all about: “What does it feel like to be in the presence of your voice?”

Her point: it’s a felt experience to hear someone’s signature sound; a voice that is dripping with – imbued with – its own sense of unique self. While we’re not necessarily talking about a speaking voice, we could rephrase the question to say: “What does it feel like to be in the presence of your photographs, your art, your expression?”

Maurice further defined signature as how you see the world. And I think that applies to art and photography – and life. How you see the world, how you perceive your place in the world, what you think it’s all about, what it means to you, how it feels to you and what it is you want to say as a result of all those things. That is what becomes your signature. And there’s only one you. So therefore your signature is completely unique.

Like I said earlier: a signature is your stamp. It’s your own “spark of divine fire”, to quote George Bernard Shaw. And it is seen through your work and everything you do. It will weave itself into your life in so many ways. So you want to stand out from the crowd? Be unique? Be recognized? It’s all about your signature. It’s all about your voice. And it’s all about finding that genius. That place of genius where it all flows.

Now here’s the thing. A lot of people talk about this. They say “Oh, you have to be real, you have to be authentic, you have to show up as yourself.” I mean there is conversation about this going on now – and that’s good. We’re not the only ones having this conversation. The ebook I wrote: “10 Steps to Finding Your Artistic Voice” and the Kelbyone course that I did called “Finding Your Artistic Voice” was a way to take this whole idea break it down into very simple elements.

Because we have to make things practical. Even though it was a little simplistic in my book (not in a bad way – I just mean it wasn’t the whole story.), it was a way to start the conversation . It gave us a way tp say “Oh I see how that applies!”… because this all needs to be practical and applicable. Now the conversation is evolving to the next step. It’s all about: “What’s the what’s the bigger picture? Where else does it fit in – and how else can I apply it?”

One of the words I see a lot is the term “art”. And gets thrown around like it’s something terribly important and precious: “I’m making art.” “It’s allll about my photographic art”.

Well what the heck is art? How do we define art? And when you imagine “Living your life as art”… well, we need some kind of agreement about what hat the heck are we talking about when it comes to art.

One of my favorite definitions of art: “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination in producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” It applies to photography – and honestly – for me it applies to the kind of life that I want to live. Taking this definition of art into photography – you’re creating pieces that are beautiful to you. And like I’m always saying – in my ebook, in the course and everything; when you’re producing pieces that are beautiful to you they make you feel something. And of course your audiencefeels it too. That feeling opens something up inside of you. And if you can slip past the judgment center in your brain that says: “Red doesn’t sell”, or “Everyone photographs train tracks!” or “ANOTHER sunset??” (with a vast roll of the eyes), well then we open up the door to something magical. Something new. Something very you. And even something more divine than just you. Every great artist I know acknowledges that they’re merely a conduit for something greater than themselves.

That’s the mystical quality of art and connecting with that has magic in it. Here’s why it matters. We need our dreams. We need to dream. It’s the voice of our soul’s genius calling out helping us evolve and bring us home.

Gloria Steinem said it best: “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming is, after all, another form of planning.” Voila! This is the lay of the land – the spirit of – what I’m referring to with regards to finding your artistic voice. For this series, I feel it’s important because it opens the door for creating photography and art in your own unique way. Which is both fulfilling to you – but it places a signature stamp on your work that others can recognize too. It makes it so much easier connect with you, your heart, your message, your world view, your genius – and the story you want to tell.

But here’s the really cool thing: it’s a one-stop-shop. Dipping into the signature/genius/voice pool becomes a way of living in more creative and fulfilling ways. I think that’s the exciting, bigger side of all this; the possibility of living in a way that is full of delightful surprises and fulfilling decisions. It becomes living your life as if it were your art. You might even makes changes in your life, if that’s what you desire. Heck, I’ve seen that happen many times – and it happened to me too.

So there you go. Welcome to the playing field from which our adventure begins! It stems from the deep parts of you – your inner bits, where your soul and dreams live. But then we’ll venture into the ways it weaves itself into everything. From how you photograph, to your gear, your clothing, your postprocessing, your storytelling, your preparation – not necessarily in that order. All of the everyday practical things that can and should bear your signature. When it does, you might find yourself not just being more creative (although that’ll happen) but also feeling happier, smiling more, becoming a little beacon of light and delight in your corner of the world. My feeling about it: if you put enough brightly lit corners together, we light up the whole house. Wouldn’t that be fun!

Enjoying this conversation? Throwdown some feedback, thoughts, questions, or a really good joke (love those)… in the comments below.

I love comments – and I read them all. I will love to read yours!

So till next time may you photograph in your souls voice. Later!

The Other Episodes

Wondering where to go next? Here are ALL of the episodes in this series:

Episode 1: Introduction
Episode 2: Preparation
Episode 3: Appearance
Episode 4: Cameras & Gear
Episode 5: Art & Business
Episode 6: Art & Business
Episode 7: Post-Processing
Episode 8: Storytelling

Extra: Q&A