Style. Everyone wants a style, right? From a drawing style, to a hairstyle, to the clothes you wear… It’s a universal thing that we desire yet sometimes we don’t even think about how we’re going about it.
I remember being a young kid and looking at the clothes the cool kids were wearing, especially my older brothers. Baggy jeans were the thing. The wider the legs, the better. You couldn’t get wide enough!
My brothers wore those baggy jeans. My mom HATED it. And why wouldn’t she? Looking back, they looked RIDICULOUS. There’s no way I would have believed that in 15 years the trend would be the exact opposite and that even the rappers would be wearing jeans that look painted-on.
I never was allowed to wear those jeans. And I was too scared to disobey my mom like my brothers always did! I wanted to be of the cool kids. Their style from our eyes looks fully-formed as if they just woke up with the ability to create like this, so of course we want the shortcut to have that power for ourselves. In some ways all of us artists start by “wearing the ripped jeans” or whatever is the style of the day,
metaphorically speaking. We are all asking that question in the beginning, aren’t we?
“How did you find your style?” Or, more pertinent to the asker: “What do I have to do to find my style?”
It’s a common question. Maybe you have asked it. Or thought about asking it.
But, here’s the thing…
The reason this question comes up so much is because we’re not able to easily step outside of ourselves and see what we create through somebody else’s eyes. What we are saying when we tell ourselves “I don’t have a style yet” is really “I don’t think the art I produce stands out from the art I surround myself with.”
And, once we realize that, there are a few things we can do to put ourselves on a path of discovery:
As an exercise, take 3 artists whose work you like, and choose one or two things about it that you like the most. Is it the linework in their drawing? Some certain color that they use that just gives you tingles when they put it in there? The fact that they always hide a kitten in the bottom-left corner of their paintings?
Now, ask yourself what it is about those things that you like.
Can you use specific words about how they make you feel? And are those words that you wish people would use to describe your work?
You can use those answers as a springboard to inspire you to work on a way to expressing yourself that’s all your own.
For example, you love the way your favorite artist uses pen and ink. Perhaps you do a study of one of their pieces, but you try it with blue ink and a big brush.Then next time you go to a figure drawing session or something, you tell yourself that you’re only going to draw from the model with that technique. You’re making their style yours. You may decide you love it or hate it, but by doing these little experiments, little by little you will develop an arsenal of techniques that become what people know you for, that you got to in an honest way -- In other words, a style!
Once we start to think about our art as a vehicle to get our audience to feel a certain way (a “problem” we are solving), we don’t worry so much about the style we do it with. We come up with ways to achieve emotions through our work without even having to force it.
“Style” results as an outcome of our artistic problem-solving!
We can’t come up with a style and then work on our problems. That’s like trying to sculpt in the kiln; or breaking out your brushes at your gallery show. Fashion designers don’t sew at the runway.
A style is usually an external label placed on you, rather than a finish line that we as artists are supposed to cross.
So, instead of asking, “How do I find my style?” ask yourself, “What do I want people to feel, and what’s the most beautiful way to get my people to feel that way?”
The work from this new series, “Fetish Of Form,” is a result of me asking all the What If questions that I didn’t give myself permission to ask out loud for so long. 🤔
Some may say I changed my style A LOT from my Painted Roses series, but I believe that part of my style as an artist is to adapt to new questions I pose for myself.
What is it about the human form that I find so fascinating?
How much of a recognizable figure can I take away and still be interested in the result?
Do the answers matter to anyone besides myself?
What are some questions that these paintings create in your mind?
What questions do you want to ask in your work?
Interested in viewing these paintings in person? They'll be up through the end of May at Agent Ink Gallery in Santa Rosa, California. Please get in touch with them for visiting hours.
PS. My mom did buy me cargo pants. Remember when those were the style? ;)
Until next time,