In the past few weeks, I’ve recently been realizing just how conservative my painting approach has been. I’m finding that my attempts at “creativity”—or perhaps more accurately, my variations from the literal—are more in the realm of simplification, substitution of colors, and composition layout than in experimentation with application techniques to help express the painting’s concept.
I admire in others’ work the use of strong, vibrant colors. But I have to struggle to paint with such boldness myself. I tend to be a quiet, rather unassuming person, not comfortable calling attention to myself. My work reflects that. Boldness is not appropriate for my work. But what is? The answer to that question is one every serious artist seeks, either consciously or unconsciously, until a personal style gradually emerges. For some, the answer presents itself more readily than for others.
With each painting I undertake, evaluation almost always calls my attention to some aspect that could be adjusted to improve the effect. And from these observations and revisions I’m continuously learning, reviewing old lessons, refining my observation skills, and adjusting my planning approach, preparatory to taking on the next subject. This is an organic form of style development, growing bit by bit out of experience, even if not so daring as such do-or-die methods of experimentation as spattering paint across a canvas or encouraging runs and drips for the sake of unifying the image.
Perhaps some of those alternative methods would enhance my vision of a subject. But, although I often admire such techniques in others’ work, most don’t coincide with my own aesthetic, personality, or artistic vision. When I experiment, it should be to enhance my own visualization of the subject, not to emulate someone else’s technique.
So I’m looking now at some of the earliest influences that attracted me to any artwork: These include the minimalist efficiency of Oriental art, particularly sumi-e and woodblock prints, subtlety of hue, graceful line, translucence, and limitation of detail to key areas. I ask myself how they have affected my aesthetic, how they have influenced my work, and whether they have already (or could) become signature characteristics of my work. Through this evaluation, I can see that yes, they do still excite me and are, to varying degrees, already evident in my paintings.
These influences may also explain why I’m more consistently drawn to the subtlety of watercolor than to the vibrant potential of oils or acrylics. This realization reinforces my decision to focus on watercolor rather than on those other mediums that many artists consider easier to control.
The next step beyond recognizing how those specific influences have affected my work and preference of medium is to consciously incorporate more of those characteristics into future work to see if they eventually integrate themselves to a greater degree into my style, even without such conscious intent.
So another route of exploration is mapped out, and the journey continues….