Saturday, December 22, 2007

In Search of Style and Merry Christmas

I've been working on larger paintings so I don't have a painting to post today. But I thought it might be fun to do something else......a wonderful English artist Sheila Vaughan recently posted some comments about style and what elements make up an artist's style. She invited others to comment on the topic. As I mentioned in my post to her blog, its a subject I have been thinking about quite a bit and had been formulating a post in my head- so hers gave me just the nudge to actually do it. I won't repeat her very cogent analysis of the elements of style but invite you to click over to her blog for that. But, I will repeat my comments and expand a little on them.

An artist friend recently said to me that my style had undergone a radical change. I was both surprised and pleased by that description. While I definitely think something has happened in my work over the past 9 months, I had thought of it as more a further refinement of the direction I had been headed for several years. But when I really thought about it, I could see that much of what I thought had been going on, had taken place in my head and really didn't start showing up in full force in the paintings until about 6 months ago. That caused me to wonder, what changed? Its really pretty simple- I just made a choice to paint in a particular way. Once you have learned the basic understanding of values, color, drawing, composition , edges and have years of painting experience under your belt, you can really choose to paint anyway you want. But, to create a cohesive body of work, you must choose. So it becomes a matter of intention. You eschew certain subjects, techniques, colors, edges etc because they do not further your intention. We all do this as we create each painting- sacrificing one passage so that the focal point or emphasis is placed in another place where we want it. The same must be done in the entire body of work. In my case, that meant to paint what I love, and only that- and only in a certain way. For example, I enjoy thick luscious paint- I think most painters do- but I have found that thinner paint and in particular, transparent passages of paint, are much more suited to the effects I am trying to get. So instead of struggling with thick paint in order to be "painterly", I embraced transparent paint (which I was never trained to do) and things begin to happen. Instead of letting shows and galleries dictate the subjects of my paintings, I painted what I loved and what I was moved to paint. I found new techniques (or at least new to me) to better communicate those visual ideas. I feel that I have just scratched the surface now of what is possible. I was freed, rather than constrained, by choice and intention.

Annie Dillard, one of my all time favorite authors says it best:

"You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment. The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one's own most intimate sensitivity. Thoreau said it another way: know your own bone."

and this

"The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding not fighting."

Thanks to everyone who has dropped in to visit this blog over the last few months (and waded thru this last pontification....:) !) Merry Christmas and best wishes for a wonderful 2008.


Dean H. said...

Hello, Deborah...Like you, I have been considering the style and direction of my art for a long while. There's so much exposure to other art on the web that it seems to throw my direction around like a spin cycle! I often see elements that my mind latches unto and I yearn to "paint like that". But I do have what others call a recognizable style...I should have after painting for 30 + years...and my soul tells me to stick with that style no matter what. I will constantly add to it and question it. This is a subject that really causes one to think, even if not too clearly, Lol. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Dean

Anonymous said...

Hello Deborah, I followed your link over from Don Gray's blog. I don't normally stop to read so much text when I'm browsing blogs for paintings but this was really worth it! Thanks for posting it.

Merry Christmas
Silvina Day

Deborah Paris said...

Hi Dean. You're right- like most things, the internet has a double edge- thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas!

Deborah Paris said...

Hi Silvina. It was a lot of text-I appreciate that you waded thru it! Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas!

Cooper Dragonette said...

Hi Deborah
Merry Christmas! I really enjoyed reading this entry--lots of inspiration. Can't wait to get back to the easel.
All the best in 2008!

Deborah Paris said...

Thanks Cooper- Happy New Year!

Rhonda Hurwitz said...

your post struck a nerve...well said.

Deborah Paris said...

Hi Rhonda. Thanks very much for stopping by!