Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Question of Style

Approaching Storm, originally uploaded by Mark Nesmith.
One of the most common questions among artists is how to develop their own style (and how we even know it's our style when we find it.) I've been reading a few posts about style online, and there's lots of different definitions being tossed about, so I thought I'd throw my two cents in as well. The general consensus seems to be that style is the accumulated choices about art making that an artist makes on a recurring basis, including decisions about subject matter, composition, color palette, medium, technique, etc. I think this is a fair definition, and certainly covers the technique end of the spectrum, but I think there's more to it than just the technical issues we resolve about our art. I think we also have to include the decisions we've made in our lives, and all of the life experiences that we carry around as baggage. For most of us, it's virtually impossible to separate our emotional self from the art we're making. Our daily mood swings and the highs and lows of life as we know it filters through, whether consciously or unconsciously, into everything we're involved in.

"Approaching Storm" started out as a fairly gentle painting of a still evening on Lake Mineral Wells. After I had drawn the basic composition and layed in my initial colors, my wife came next door to my studio and told me my aunt had passed away. She'd been in the hospital all day, but when I'd spoken with my cousin earlier that afternoon it sounded like she was improving a little. When I finally returned to my painting later that night, my mood had certainly changed, and that change is reflected in my painting. My brush strokes became bolder, more aggresive, and the colors took on a slightly more somber tone. It's not a violent painting by any means, but by letting my mood and emotions flow through me and onto the canvas, it reveals a little piece of my grief, and in the process, a little of my style.

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