Style Speaks

Swallow, 5×7, January 2017

I started my own personal challenge on 9 December, 2018. This daily painting challenge is a small 6×6 painting each morning; before work, 30 minutes, no going back, all still life. I want to improve my rendering abilities, as well, as define my style.

‘Style’ is a word that I hear a lot in my art circles. ‘I love that artists style’; ‘they have such a unique style’; ‘as artists we need to find our style.’ Style is easy to see in many artists work. I am sure that is one of the reasons they are successful as artists. Not sure about you, but in a lot of the art I look at everyday – including my own – I don’t see a strong style. The internet is full of beautiful pastel paintings from artists all over the world, in some I see their style, others I don’t.

I suppose that is the way it is with artists. Some of us never find our style. Some of us do and then seem to get stuck in rut. Some artist’s style is instantly obvious and seems to transcend subject matter and medium.

For myself, I draw my subject and then kind of color it in. I don’t have a light touch with the pastels, although I did try for a while. I gave up, it frustrated me. I am drawn to painting landscapes, and I am not against blending. So, is that my style? Do people look at my work and say ‘Oh, she’s done another thick, smudged painting of the woods’? Do they scroll Instagram and as they pass my latest painting know it is mine?

The answer is yes, that is style and hopefully someday it will be strong enough to be recognized as mine. Nita Leland wrote ‘Cultivate Your Personal Style’ in The NEW Creative Artist, “Every choice you make is a revelation of your yourself and your personal style.” She goes on to explain that subject matter selection, materials and the way you handle them are your style. So why does style matter?

Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” — Rachel Zoe.  Think about that for a minute, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” That is huge!

As artists, we need to be intentional with our work. With every painting we are telling the world who we are. We are speaking out loud to any and all! This led me to try and uncover how to take advantage of whatever ‘style’ I have and use it to say what I want the world to know about me.

I uncovered a gem, Christopher Kerry, a certified Copic instructor. Not a pastelist, but his blog is good! “Creativity is taking the same parts and pieces that everyone else has access to and combining them in a way that no one else has ever thought of.” ­—  Christopher Kerry  In his blog he talks about how to find your style and execute it “in a week, tops!” He has a step-by-step actionable plan to help any artist find their style. It is a very simplified version of the artist’s journey. An exercise that I think would help many of us see ‘style’ in art a bit clearer. See ‘style’ in our art a bit clearer, and verbally communicate ‘style’ in art. I will certainly be going through his steps in January to see what I can learn about myself and my ‘style!’

Some artists have found their style but don’t take full advantage of it. They end up in a creative rut, each painting looking like the last. During my research, I found that maintaining habits is important. If you paint in the morning, paint in the morning. Then do something completely different; go for a walk, meditate, allow your brain time to clear and see something new. My research also found that challenging yourself to try something new (not on a deadline) can be inspiring. Nita Leland agreed in her article “…the actual breakthrough in the privacy of the studio, when one dares to apply paint in a new manner, is a solitary thrill…the individual artist must act courageously in an effort to grow.” Our style will benefit from challenging it with new subjects and applications. If you’re a portrait artist, take your easel outside and paint a landscape. If you are a representational artist, challenge yourself to abstract a subject.

It is important for as artists that we find our style and use it to tell the world who we are and what is important to us. I also now know that it is important that I talk about style. How great would it be for us if I could articulate exactly what I like about your style, your mark making, color and subject choices, instead of just saying that I like your style. I also have learned that style isn’t an intangible that I may or may not find. I have it, but I need to identify it and assist its growth.

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