Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Artistic Style

approx. 7" x 5"
005 black Micron on Canson paper
a very slow WIP

I have recently seen a number of blog posts written on the topic of artistic style. I think it is interesting how often artists, including me, have questions about style. Do I have a style? Is it a good one? What defines my style? Should I change it? Is it even possible to consciously change it?

To my knowledge, most people never question their style of handwriting. They realize their handwriting is as unique as they are. Their letters may be big and loopy or small and straight, scrunched all together or spread out wide.

How many people question their style of speech? Should my words be formed slowly and thoughtfully, or should I let them race from my mouth in one long excited breath?

We don't question how we talk or write, but we do question our art. Is that because we think there is a "right way" and a "wrong way" to make art? I'm guessing we've all heard messages about right and wrong with concern to art so that may be part of it. But I also think it's because our art is much more important to us than our handwriting.

Like many artists, I am trying to get a handle on the specifics of my artistic style. I decided to enlist my family to help with this.

First I laid out all of my recent works in one room. Then I gave my hubby and kids each a piece of paper and pencil. I asked them to write down any thoughts they had regarding my style including similarities they see in my works, patterns, common subjects, recurring colors, repeated themes - basically anything they saw. I assured them there were no wrong answers. Then I grabbed a piece of paper for myself and did the exercise with them, trying to look at my own work with fresh eyes.

When everyone was done, I compiled the result. This is what I learned...
- I paint and draw in a realistic and detailed style.
- I use a full range of values in my work.
- I use saturated colors in my work, especially around the focal point.
- Most of my compositions have simple backgrounds or are close crops.
- I like to paint nature (flowers, leaves, vegetables & fruits) and everyday objects.

Thinking about these results, I realized that my subject and composition choices are my way of trying to get the viewer to stop and appreciate the "little things" in life and the beauty in the everyday. I want them to "stop and smell the roses" and feel happier for it. This is why I chose Stop and Draw the Roses for the title of this blog. It reflects not only my desire to slow down the pace of my life by creating art, but also my desire to help people who view my art slow down and appreciate their lives.

Asking my family for a style review was very interesting and helpful. Even my young children had something useful to add. If you are not comfortable enlisting your family, the exercise could be done with other artists. Repeating the style review with several different groups and comparing their answers would be interesting too.

If you are having trouble "seeing" your own style, give this exercise a try. I'd love to hear if you feel it was as valuable as I do.


Mary said...

This is interesting Stacy. I'll have to give it a try.

I'll be looking forward to seeing the progress on this very nice stippling WIP!

Jennifer Rose said...

Getting people to sit down and help is a good idea. Its not that I wouldn't be comfortable getting family to do this, just that 9 times out of 10 they just say positive things, are afraid to tell me what they really think. And while it is nice to get people to say positive things about my art, every once and awhile it would be nice to get some honest feedback.

Anita said...

My mother is one of my most honest critics - she just comes out and tells me what she thinks. I must ask her what she thinks my style is.

Looking forward to seeing this drawing appear.

Stacy said...

Mary, my kids really had fun with it. I think they enjoyed "helping Mom".

Jennifer, the good thing is that this exercise isn't about good or bad. It's just about spotting patterns or similarities. The answers would be things like to draw dragons...or you often use bright color.

Anita, someone who isn't afraid to critique our work can be both a blessing and a curse. ;) But an honest, constructive critique is very valuable.