My Style ... Musings and a Decision <br/>(August 7, 2007) ~ A Painting a Week

Dienstag, 7. August 2007

My Style ... Musings and a Decision
(August 7, 2007)

In the last few days I was thinking and wondering a lot about a/my personal painting style. I enjoy painting a wide choice of subjects, trying out new techniques, just going where my whim leads me. And still I feel the 'need' for finding (and following) MY way, my style.
And as so often when I'm interested in something I know I can rely on the internet in general and more specifically on my fellow artist bloggers. Seems I'm not the only one to contemplate that question – just look at the links at the end of this post.

Seems everybody is in search of style.
Why am I searching as well, what is my aim? - I would like to get to a point where my paintings are recognizable as being MY paintings. I want people to look at them and say: "that must be a Regula Scheifele's painting".
So how do I get there? – Probably by developing a very distinctive style.
This leads up to the next question: what is (a) style? - Wikipedia says:

"In art and painting, style can refer either to the aesthetic values followed in choosing what to paint (and how) or to the physical techniques employed. […] Some of these [styles] are closely associated with certain techniques, such as Pointillism, while others are more flexible, but each has a characteristic "look" that becomes more and more distinctive as it develops. […]By changing the way they paint, apply colour, texture, perspective, or the way they see shapes and ideas, the artist establishes a certain set of "rules". If other artists see the rules as valid for themselves they might also apply these characteristics. The works of art then take on that specific "style"."
Another definition:
"A characteristic handling of media and elements of form that gives a work its identity as the product of a particular person, group, art movement, period, or culture."

Ok. So style can refer to one or many of those points:
-> Choice (and handling) of media
-> Choice of subject
-> Technique (including choice of colour pallet)
-> Composition
-> Aesthetic values
-> Individual perception of the world
-> Message, statement of a painting

What is my style (so far)? - I'm not sure I have one. Meaning I do not have a distinct and consistent style.
I paint mainly in acrylics, but I also use coloured pencil, do sometimes dabble in oils (figuratively speaking!) and have just been working on a mixed media piece.
Subject-wise I love doing portraits, I've done quite a few still lifes (mainly fruits and cups) and started painting Plein Air.
My colour pallet is not restricted at all, though I have my favourite colours like burnt sienna, naples yellow, cad reds and cerulean blue or king's blue.
Composition is something I find very interesting and intriguing - down to applying mathematical rules (see my post on mmmmm) – but I'm not consciously concentrating on composing my paintings.

Hmm…. so is there a common denominator in my list? A style evolving?
It might actually be easier to say what I'm NOT doing (pet portraits, wildlife, fantasy…).

Then I read some blog posts (including Maggie's and Katherine's) and articles and though I did not find THE answer to my questions I found a way to proceed. It's actually something I've always felt was important, but didn't really act upon: building a body of work.

1) "A body of work is the term used to describe the collection of paintings an artist has done that are typical of their style, approach, or techniques."
2) "A collection of developed and assembled works (usually by one artist) that represents an investigation or study."

OK, now we're talking. In order to build a body of work I need to decide on a well-defined and focused way of working. One media, one subject matter, maybe one size, one colour pallet,… you get the meaning!
Imagine I'm doing an exhibition and want my paintings to have a coherent and harmonious look. I don't think I'd mix and match all my paintings and drawings on one wall, coloured pencil portrait next to acrylic kitchen still life, Tuscan landscape next to abstract piece. Instead I'd want to focus on one theme like "Under the Tuscan Sun" or "Coffee Time". If I can't come up with a (distinct) name for the exhibition then I probably haven't built a distinct body of work either. puts it that way:
"Decide on a style, subject matter, palette, and value range that you love, and are comfortable doing. Narrow it down. Dogs? Too broad. One breed only. Too broad. One specific dog only. That would definitely help narrow down your palette. Do that one dog over and over, in the same narrow range of colors."

Soooo…. at the end of this long and winding post, what does this all mean for me?

-> I decide (for the time being) not to worry too much about my personal and distinctive style but trust that It'll develop more and more with each painting I do.
-> I decide to (further) concentrate on building a body of work.
-> In addition I'm "allowed" to experiment.

Ok – doesn't that sound good?
So much for theory. Here's the 'but': Going back on what I just said I probably will be building two bodies of work. I just don't feel like narrowing down my choice of subject matter to just one but want to keep exploring two directions I'm really interested in right now: Plein Air Painting and Everyday Still Lifes.

Plein Air "translates from French to English as in the open air, and describes painting outdoors rather than in a studio. In Italian the term alfresco is used." ( I started painting Plein Air in Tuscany this June and really enjoy the experience and challenge. Painting Plein Air teaches me to observe and translate what I see in a totally different way to painting from a reference photo. It also forces me to loosen up and focus on the essentials. By "Everyday Still Lifes" I mean smaller paintings done at home (or 'in the studio' if I had one) whose subject matter may be anything at hand. In my case either fruit or (coffee) cups, again done from life and mostly in one session - and ideally several similar paintings (same subject) in a row.

So (assuming I haven't lost all my readers somewhere in this long post) - what do you think?

I've promised you some links, here they are:

Interesting reads with reference to 'Style' / 'Body of Work':
"Art - creating a body of work and your own show" by Katherine Tyrrell
"Cookie Monster Has Style" by Maggie Stiefvater
"How to Create a Body of Work and a Distinctive Style as an Artist" by Martha Marshall
"Painting Style Problem Solver -- How to Create a Unique..." by Marion Boddy-Evans

Artists whose work I admire:
Carole Marine is one of my role models, her daily still lifes are vibrant, fun, exciting – go take a look!
Jelaine Faunce - again beautiful still lifes, esp. 'Chamomille II' and other glass / china pieces.
Mick McGinty posts and excels at both landscapes and still lifes – I like to see this mix on his blog and just love his food themed still lifes.
Michael Chesley Johnson - great Plein Air painter
René's Plein Air Blog - lives and works in the Netherlands
Karin Jurick - her paintings are a feast for the eyes!

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Anonym hat gesagt…

Dear Regi, your quest for a personal painting style is understandable but aren't you allowing it to bother you too much? I think you will develop a very personal style as you go on painting. I personally very much like your plein air paintings. The originals are of course sooo much better than the photographs!

Ed Terpening hat gesagt…

i agree with your conclusion. You can not plan your style or analyze it to come up with the perfect style for you. Style comes to you over time, with experimentation, skill and outside influences, such as artists you admire.

Stacy hat gesagt…

Regula, I see I am not the only one doing some hard thinking about art. That's good to know!

I agree with your conclusion. I always figured that style shows up the longer someone paints. I don't see it as something we can force. But your ideas of building a body of work and limiting your focus are good ones. And you can always change your focus when you are ready to - it's not a lifelong choice.

Katherine hat gesagt…

In order to find what you want to paint, you need to paint. It's odd - you work it out over time, looking at different things yu've painted, which you enjoyed and why and which you got less out of and why - and slowly your subject matter comes to you.

Just keep painting and let the subject speak to you!

When you've got about 50 under your belt stop and take a look at them and see if you can see any pattern and/or groupings. Not so much things you decided to paint as things that told you to paint them.