Tuesday, 12 July 2011

How do you Develop a Style? Part 2

In the previous post I set out that in my experience you don't, maybe even cannot, consciously choose a style.

Perhaps it is more of something you uncover. It is like finding out who you are. A popular expression is 'you can be anything you want to be'. Most people over a certain age know this isn't really true. I am 5' 10" and no matter how hard I worked I wasn't going to be a jockey, or a muscleman, or a carpenter (something I actually considered). I have little muscle mass, and am not very good at practical things. I actually get ill if I don't get enough time alone, so politician is probably out as well. And so on. I am suited to be an artist, and isn't it grand that that is what I love to be? This is often the case and enough proof of a benevolent higher power for me.

So slowly I progressed from irritation that my work looked like something I would do to thinking there could be some value there. I appreciate subtlety, have a good eye for detail and love a good story. Okay, maybe I am not suited for abstract expressionism. I love Kandinsky but when I tried to do anything abstract I just couldn't keep interested. But when I went to life drawing I found it endlessly fascinating.

From the beginning I wanted to draw and paint realistically. I went back to university in '89 and no one was interested in naturalistic painting. I am pretty sure the teachers had not learned to work that way. It was considered old fashioned and not cool. When I asked for advice on how to paint, skin say, my teacher would say "however you want". I felt intimidated and 'wrong'.

But realism was always what I wanted to do. I realise now that I wanted to be able to create other realities. That is what art is for me. Even though I went off and learned how to paint traditionally I was never interested in painting what was in front of me. I wanted to paint the invisible world. And I wanted to do it in a way that expressed it as 'real'. This combination of natural abilities and natural interests now combine to make my 'style'.

Thank you for the thoughtful and intelligent comments on the last post. I love that with blogging we can have this back and forth and it isn't just about me giving my opinion. I learn from your comments and it changes what I think.

Jeanie commented that style can change and evolve over time. I think it must really, if we are to continue to grow.

I want to add that I am still thinking about this whole concept of style. I understand that the galleries need to sell work and that if artists have a recognisable look to their work it helps with that. But I do think this is a tricky thing for the artists as most creatives are driven to keep experimenting and changing. I know I am.


Violet said...

if we do not change, grow and evolve, what's the point?

Sarah said...

I have spent some time not liking my style - it has grown and developed and i hope will continue to do so, but it is always recognisably mine. I look back over the last few years and I find whatever I do, whatever medium I choose, unless I am deliberately trying to imitate someone else it 'always looks like something I would do'- exactly.

Maybe some people are able to consciously push a change in their style, I don't know, but I cannot. Like you I lose interest.

For a long time, because nobody's work looked like mine (and because figurative narrative painting is simply not fashionable in the UK)I kept trying to push myself to be different. It didn't work and finally I have given up trying to change it and realised that no one else's work looking like mine is actually a Very Good Thing!

Sarah said...

Straight after commenting I went and read the latest post on Rebecca Crowell's blog - you might find it interesting: http://rebeccacrowellart.blogspot.com/ I can't seem to make a direct link, but it's dated 11 July.

susan christensen said...

I am reading (and loving) Twyla Tharp's great book on creativity, 'The Creative Habit' and what she says about creative DNA rings true with what you have said here.
ps - i see over in the sidebar you saw the Bill Cunnignham movie - SO good! xxoo, sus

Anonymous said...

Just listened to a fascinating interview with you (by Rice)...
I really don't like the word style...If we could really define our 'style' with words why would we bother painting, making art or journal...why do we feel compelled to translate our visual language into a spoken one....can't we just let it be? Do we ask a politician what's your style?

Zom said...

Orly, I am glad you liked the interview.

I agree, I don't like the word 'style' either. I used it because that is how it seems to be talked about online.

"Why do we feel compelled to translate our visual style into a spoken one" Boy, don't get me started, how about artist statements... Sometimes I feel like just saying "I am a visual artist, not a bl**dy writer!" Why indeed?

Anonymous said...

I kept exploring as a painter and never stuck to a 'style' (abstract to figurative to abstract figurative) I would hate to stay in one spot- but looking back there was an 'undercurrent' or something.... that was my style. The choice of colours, the way the paint is placed on the canvas, the 'mood' seem to all contribute to a 'style'

As far as 'style'- well we might as well say 'aesthetic' or 'taste'.

But I leave you this then...why do most artworks have titles??? Just wondering...

Zom said...

I used to wonder the same thing, especially as I always struggle with titles, (some artists begin with them! I find that intriguing.)
Then I heard an explanation that made sense to me, even inspired me. That titles were the artist's chance to share a kind of direction with the viewer. Our chance to give some kind of clue to what we were feeling about the whole thing. I still struggle with titles, but that does motivate me.

It is a conversation I would like to have. But I don't know that I have enough to say about to write a blog post.