How to Put Some ‘Soul’ in Your Art

As graphic artists, we encounter many different clients with many different reasons for needing our services. We can meet anyone from a corporate vice president to mom-and-pop small business owner. But handling this vast group of people takes special skill. All of us have areas where we are stronger than others, but knowing how to listen and interpret a client’s wishes simply takes practice.

What happens when you run into a client whose industry you’ve had no prior experience working with? How do you add that unspoken element to their project if you’ve never had the opportunity to be involved with their line of work? I’ve just recently had an experience with an employee who is creating a postcard marketing project that needs to be “soulful.” Not that my employee is not a soulful person, but this adjective is one that can’t necessarily be taught, but instead needs to be felt. I found it interesting that most of the time as artists we’re asked to convey a feeling, which when you think about it, isn’t an easy thing to do. I guess that’s what makes us so special!

So as I directed my artist, I tried to give him examples of what the client would feel is “soulful.” I sent him links to music and different pictures and images to get him inspired. I tried to speak about the types of thought patterns, music and lifestyle that are considered to be “soul.” I think he’s getting it, but that process was such an interesting one that I wanted to share it with all of you. How do you put “soul” into your art?

The “soul” that I’m speaking of in particular is neo-soul which is a movement of music started in the early 1990s that is a fusion of 1970s soul music, jazz, funk, hip-hop and house music. Think Maxwell, India Aire, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and D’Angelo. If your client is involved in something where a soulful, sultry, urban or ethnic feeling should be evoked, you might want to keep reading. Here are some basic concepts for a great soul-filled art project:

Soul is warmth
There should never be a cold feeling to this type of artwork. Use warmth in everything from color to images. Earth and jewel tones lend itself to this type of feeling. Browns are normally included when thinking about “soul” due to the earth and its richness. After looking at your project, the viewer should have a feeling of comfort, inspiration and hope. It is an uplifting movement, and its art should always be a reflection of that.

Soul is flow
Hard lines, rigid corners and stiff characters probably won’t be found in art connected with neo-soul. There is a fluid motion in this type of artwork. Lots of swirls, shapes and colors blending into each other, images of people transforming into other things such as instruments or parts of nature are all wonderful examples of soulful imagery. Everything is connected, and that feeling of involvement and inclusion is one that makes neo-soul so appealing.

Soul is positive
Neo-soul music can encompass many different topics: love, heartbreak, society, community, etc. It’s a truthful movement that inspires many of its most successful artists to write about a happy future if we all come together to make it so. In the artwork for this type of client, your underlying message should be a positive one. Images should not look mean and foreboding, but instead calm, peaceful or passionate. The message should not be one of anger, rather encouragement.

Soul is love
If nothing else, soulful art should represent a love. It doesn’t just have to be the type of love between a man and a woman or a parent and child, but any type of love: the love between neighbors, a musician and his or her instrument, a resident and his or her community, or the love between God and his creation. In your artwork, a neo-soul representation would showcase the love between the client and their craft and how that client intends to affect the world with it.

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One Response to How to Put Some ‘Soul’ in Your Art

  1. V April 18, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    Wow you embraced my hand and took me to a very “Soulful” place- Great job putting this subject of art and creativity to words..

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