Posts Tagged ‘artistic consistency’

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.

Developing a Consistent Body of Work

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Experimentation is all well and good…to a point. But when it interferes with consistency, the time has come to stop. I’ve found experimentation valuable to satisfy my curiosity about alternative media, such as casein, the topic of the past three blogs. Not because it’s given me more to work with but because either I can lay it aside without regret and focus on media that conform better to my style, tastes, and working methods, or I have been able to determine how it might fit into my work.

This past month I had the opportunity to help teach a large painting class. The materials the sponsor provided for the class were called “watercolor” but the medium looked and behaved much more consistently with the characteristics of casein. Having just familiarized myself with casein, I was able to use the paints successfully to teach basic artistic principles. But both of us teaching felt that passing off one medium as another was a disservice to the clients because the opaque, matte medium we had to work with prevented our demonstrating the beautiful transparent characteristics that typifies watercolor at its best. I have determined that casein has no place in either my studio or my inventory.

130726w River Point

I love the flow, transparency, and challenge of watercolor, as illustrated in “River Point” (#130726, above). With care, these characteristics can carry over into acrylics, which serve as a transition medium for me. Acrylic work led me into an appreciation of the denser texture, more easily controlled color, and essentially more tactile experience of working with oil. Yet by comparing the watercolor above with the oil painting, “Among the Reeds” (#130727) below, it’s easy to see that the styles I’ve developed in oil and water don’t mix particularly well.

130727o Among the Reeds

Although both mediums provide beautiful results, the difference between approaches that those two mediums require creates too great a shift in my painting style. Although the color palettes I tend to favor in the two mediums are similar and subject matter overlaps, the appearance of my finished works in oil and in watercolor is too disparate for them to be shown together as a consistent, “representative” body of work.

120507a San Marco Gondoli

Unless I can find a consistent way to align these two styles more closely (as I managed to do in the acrylic “San Marco Gondoli,” #120507), I’ll have to make a choice: to concentrate solely on a transparent watercolor/acrylic approach, focus instead on a more heavily textured acrylic/oil approach, or develop two entirely separate inventories to represent these disparate styles.

I would welcome your comments and feedback.