Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thoughts on Artistic Style

 Two Goblins and a Door (detail). Watercolor, 1998. Private collection.
Style. What a weird concept; it tends to get artists all in a stir—that is, artists who don’t seem to have a single, trademark look to their work. Sorta like me.
For a fellow whose work is all over the board, a single style in my work seems impossible.  Some reasons for that:

1. Age  
When I was a little guy I drew and drew without worry. It was like breathing or walking--no second thoughts. And I thought I was as good as my heroes; all the Disney artists and Dr. Suess of course. The cut-outs on the right were made when I was a kid--quick drawings for a stop-action cartoon. I was obsessed with eggmen and birds then.

While in high school I sent a portfolio off to a book publisher. It contained the smeary, top-hatted masterpiece on the right, among others. My delusions were limitless. Thankfully, the kind but firm rejection letter I received let that air out of my ego.

Years later, I studied anatomy, form, and shading in art school and sweated at illustrating with a certain style for quite a few years. Now that I'm old, I don't necessarily want that certain style anymore.  I just want to draw and draw--like breathing and walking.
                                                          2. Media
I change media so often that it’d take a few lifetimes to see any sort of consistent style emerge.  Put simply, I want to see how my internal visions will look using a variety of techniques. 

To the left is a big clay bird of mine, sculpted a few years ago. Guess it somewhat looks like my illustration-type drawings.

Cloth sculpture and lino prints are filling my days lately.

When I discovered Arthur Rackham and Heath Robinson's work in college, I fell in love with watercolor and pen and ink. I studied their work, copied it, and found my way with it.  The rat thief below was done long ago in art school.  Still work with those media, but I need change, too. Why? Because I have:

3. Attention Deficit
I get antsy when using one medium for awhile. Sometimes I envy artists who never get tired of a medium, or a subject matter, or a style—but not very often. Maybe it stunts my artistic growth to switch so much.  I mull that over once in a while, but it doesn't make me change.

4. Exploration
Like a kid in a candy shop, I pretty much like all the art I see out there.  And when I really love a piece, I want to try it out.  So I do. Not plagiaristically, of course--just idea and technique-wise. A couple of years ago I saw a great exhibition of 60's posters, and shortly thereafter discovered the masterful screen prints of David Weidman  
While I haven't tried screen printing yet, I did go after the color combinations I saw in the posters and prints. And matte acrylics give me those colors. 

I am still obsessed with eggmen and birds. That's about as consistent as it gets!

“God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style, He just goes on trying other things.”
                                                                     -Pablo Picasso
(Only Picasso would be cocky enough to say that, but it does hit the mark.)

(Left) Colby is Happy (detail). Acrylic on wood. 2011. Private collection.

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