Archive for November, 2016

Time for Tough Questions

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Last time, I wrote about surprising ourselves by reaching outside our usual parameters.  But sometimes it’s better to stay strictly within established boundaries.

When an artist is continually experimenting with media, ideas, and boundaries, the question can’t help but arise:  What about consistency?

What can an artist do to ensure that her work remains consistent?  What is it about her work that announces that it is hers, her style, whatever the medium or subject?  What contributes to individuality, to “style”?  And what should be avoided that might detract from a sense of consistency in an artist’s body of work?  If her work is varied, how can she narrow down to one aspect upon which she can build a career?  How can she identify where to focus her attention and energy?

These are questions I’ve been struggling with for several years, and the importance of it was brought home to me recently when a gallerist was giving me feedback about my work.

A review of past lessons learned, as well as additional research, have reinforced that realization and provided some insights about how to edit down both investigative inclinations and less successful “variations on a theme.”  The seemingly negative job of pruning out is a critical activity, but it isn’t the only task necessary.  Creating consistency also includes the positive element of conscious choice about specific areas to develop.

My goal for 2017 will be to identify which areas to focus on to develop a consistent, unified body of work from here on out.  Oh yes, I will continue to explore and experiment.  That’s how an artist’s work continues to evolve and mature.  But if I can control my investigative impulses, those pieces will represent only a small percentage of my overall creative output, while the core of my work should become stronger and more stylistically consistent when my focus is narrowed down and kept within specific constraints.

Just as shrubs bloom better when properly pruned because nutrients are rerouted to critical areas of the plant, creativity also blossoms more effectively when constraints are put in place that remove many distracting, and often conflicting, possibilities.  When limiting parameters are established, we must search farther, reach deeper, and become more innovative to find the answers we need within those constraints.  And we can reasonably expect that such increasingly intensive searching will bring greater depth and mastery to our work.  This is my goal for the coming year.

Extending Boundaries

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

There are many ways for an artist to stretch her boundaries.  Some are by experimenting with other media or by tackling different subject matter or approaching work more as an abstraction than as representation.  Or it may be more literal by moving from the studio into “plein air” to paint from nature.  This month I’ve been literally stretching my boundaries in a several ways, by working on a larger canvas than the smaller sizes I’ve limited myself to in recent years, and by visualizing natural elements in abstract terms of line, flow, color, value patterns, and balance.

As I reviewed some photographs I’d taken as reference studies, and considered how they might be used, I began to play with some of the abstract ideas they suggested.  The result speaks for itself.

"Sun Catchers" (#161002), oil by Charlotte Mertz, 30" x 30" x 1.5"

“Sun Catchers” (#161002), oil by Charlotte Mertz, 30″ x 30″ x 1.5″

When we allow ideas to flow beyond the usual parameters, sometimes we can surprise ourselves.