Your Signature Style ~ Would You Take a Risk to Find IT?

So I gave a painting demonstration for my retreat guests in Tuscany last fall called, “Your Signature Style.” Little did I know that it would have a dramatic impact on my own paintings!

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You have probably heard talk about an artist’s style. Being able to recognize an artist’s style of painting, sculpting, making pottery, photography, writing, music or dance ~ we identify artists and follow their work.

Some years ago, I think it was ’06, or ’07 ~ I went from showing very richly jewel toned paintings in my fall shows, to a softer pastel toned palette the following spring.

The response startled me.

“Is this your first time exhibiting in this show?”

“I liked your other paintings better.”

“You were brave to change your style so,” commented the show director.

“Really?”

I hadn’t even considered it a risk? Is it a risk to try a new color? Is it a risk to change mediums? Is it a risk to try painting ~ if you’ve NEVER done it before?

So what IS an artist’s style?

Is it really about color? What makes a style of expression ~ in any medium? And how does one get there?

I believe it’s really about letting who you REALLY are out there in the art!  That is the point of doing it in the first place?  I really wanted my retreat guests to get this critical part. Even though many had never painted before ~ I wanted them to feel the ‘WOW!’

Painting Demonstration:

Discovering Passion

In Tuscany ~ I began my painting demonstration by asking each person to sign their name on a page in their sketchbook. “Just do it.”

signature style
signature style watercolor and pencil, 6″ x 9″

Then I picked up a watercolor brush, loaded it with paint, looked out the window at a misty, rainy landscape. One middle ground tree caught my eye, nothing special, just a place to start my brush.

I put the brush down on my small piece of watercolor paper and made like I was signing my name. No thinking, just do it.

Without thinking, I grabbed a pencil and drew back into the wet paint.

Assignment

Capturing Essence

Try capturing the essence. Move quickly. Scribble, don’t edit. Just do it. Something. Stop when the flow stops. Don’t work over top of the initial flow.

signature style watercolor
Memory painting, watercolor, 9″ x 12″

I challenged them to paint from the memory of the Tuscan dinner party we’d all enjoyed the previous night. I made a quick stab at it to demonstrate.

Itching to try it themselves, my audience didn’t ask questions. They milled around my easel briefly and disappeared to get their own paint.

In the Studio

A Bigger Brush

Later in the day I was alone in my own flat. Looking at my memory painting of the dinner party, I wished it had more warmth. My feelings about the party were not as skiddish and austere as my brush strokes looked on the page.

The pause between my initial flow and this second flow is important. Not to collapse the conversation with the Creator, and the critic in your head. After time to consider both, I set a specific request of the Creator for more warmth, vibrato.

I loaded up a wider brush and laid down several brush loads of watery oranges. Focusing on how it feels to sign my name ~ thoughtless ~ I worked rapidly, adding lines, dots of deep color, and hot pink and red. Again ~ I stopped when the flow stopped. Sign your name and STOP!

Share Your Thoughts

Wow!

I wasn’t at all excited about my first painting in Tuscany. Rain ~ plus the fact that TSA had held my luggage in the U.S., meant I had only watercolors and a tiny sketchbook on my first day.

In hind sight, the little sketch makes a dramatic contrast to the ‘wow’ in my sketchbook a week later.

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“I want you to feel the wow,” I urged one guest to put away the step by step instruction book she had tucked beneath her sketchbook.

If you’re not excited about your painting, no one else will be either. And why are you painting in the first place ~ if not to feel that wonderful creative jolt of wow energy flowing through you???

The same applies to writing, music, dance, photography, any creative medium. How about a dinner that makes you stop and taste, wow! Wouldn’t you want the recipe?

Are you painting to have the same ifs, and, and buts from real life hanging you up? I was ~ but I’m not now!

How many ‘WOWs’ can you get on one painting? Did you try the assignment? What medium did you use? What memory did you draw your inspiration from?  Leave your comments below.

What’s Next

More WOWs

Check out the articles below for more inspiration.

And by all means, don’t be stingy ~ share with someone you know who would be inspired too!

Big Expressive Dream

Big Expressive Alla Prima Painting ~ Girls Dream Weekend

Girls Dream Weekend for 2

January 26, 27 & 28

Big Expressive Alla Prima Painting

Your Signature Style ~ Two for the price of one!
3-Day Expressive Painting Weekend

What is a signature style? And what difference would it make if you were clear about yours? That’s the question I asked myself ~ and it changed my world.

Impacting not only my art, but life itself.  We’ll start with your signature and discover your inner creative voice ~ and what makes yours unique to you.

This special weekend is for TWO women only. Your choice of media; watercolor, oils, pastels, charcoal, mixed media. $500/2 persons

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Ever wish to swing a big brush or palette knife? Capture your own heart and soul on a great big canvas?

It’s an exhilarating feeling!

This special Girls Dream Weekend is especially designed to grant that wish!

Come to my great big sunroom studio by the pond and paint with me for three days!

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You and a girlfriend are invited to use my easels, palette, and bring your own choice of oil or acrylic paint, large brushes, palette knives, and canvas. Or purchase unstretched canvas off my roll of primed canvas and clip it to one of the big studio painting boards.

This Big Painting Retreat is designed for a VERY Small Group. Only two!

And this EXTRAORDINARY weekend ~ YOU AND YOUR FRIEND are the Price of One!

Regular $500/person

This Weekend 2 for $500


First to Apply Gets it!
January 26, 27 & 28

PAY NOW

Itinerary
  • DAY 1 Jan 26
  • Check In Noon – 1:00 pm
  • Afternoon Demonstration 1:00 – 3:00 pm
  • 3:00 – 5:00 Tea & Free Time
  • 6:00  Dinner with Dorothy at a local restaurant
  • 8:00 pm Free Time
  • DAY 2 Jan 27
  • Continental Breakfast 8:00 am
  • Morning Art Session 9:00 – 11:00 am
  • Lunch on your own in the village Noon – 2:00
  • Afternoon Studio session 2:00 – 5:00 pm Paint with Dorothy
  • 6:00  Dinner on your own at a local restaurant
  • 8:00 pm Free Time
  • DAY 3 Jan 28
  • Continental Breakfast 8:00 am
  • Morning Art Session 9:00 – 11:00 am
  • Check Out 11:00

Big Expressive Alla Prima Painting Girls Dream Weekend

Jan 26, 27, 28, 2018


PAY NOW

Supermoon Dream ~ Is it My Place in the Sun? Or just a Dream?

Dream: “something blue, covering the whole thing, light blue…”

blue dream
something blue,

Journal in my lap I glance up, coffee cup in hand. Sweet creamy date bread, the taste of home, mom’s recipe fills my mouth. Crunching a piece of walnut between my teeth ~ I recognize the same lavender blue in the painting across the room.

Radiant Beauty

abstract expressionist painting
Radiant Beauty, oil painting, 48″ x 36″ Purchase Info>

I’d just written about her yesterday, how a fusion of abstract landscape melded with realistic rendering on this painting called, “Radiant Beauty.”

I’d noted that the pond represented home to me, the safe place where I can be myself. And how my paintings beckon viewers to see the Creative Spirit above their own pond.

abstract expressionist painting
detail shows the symbols of pond and home, heaven and earth. Purchase Info>

My Place in the Sun?

Two images flash to mind: tiny paintings from yesterday afternoon’s meditation exercise. The first an old one called, “My Place in the Sun,” repainted on  New Year’s Eve with a violet mountain, vermilion cottages and turquoise green fields.

small landscape oil painting
My Place in the Sun, oil on cradled wood panel, 5″ x 7″ x .75″ , $100.



 

Supermoon Rising

The second, a new painting, inspired by momentum from the first. A similar landscape with cottages and distant hills. This one with deep violet night shadows, opening to those blue fields and pond.

Celestial orbs in both paintings, low to the horizon, burn deeply vermilion, warming cottages, hearts and home. A setting sun in the first is transformed to “Supermoon Rising” in the next breath. It is amazing to me still ~ how a color meditation can reveal such a tale.

supermoon painting
Supermoon Rising, oil on cradled wood panel, 5″ x 7″ x .75″, $100


Home

In an instant ~ I realize I have wandered into my own painting. Standing beside the pond (literally, as there is a pond outside my studio windows), I painted my way home.

Returning to the studio feels strangely new this morning. Switching on the lights, I turn up the heat and survey the paintings. Not just that today is the first day of a new year ~ something else is new.

Two unfinished paintings on the easels speak now, when yesterday were silent. The tall one with a moon behind the cloud, now answers my question about whether or not she is finished.

She’s not at all finished. Indeed her supermoon is rising, illuminating the blue landscape with colorful shadows. Her true work is just begun.

supermoon painting
Supermoon on the Mountain, oil on gallery wrapped canvas, 40″ x 30″
“Paint the moon a bit larger.
“Let it light the landscape.
“And fill those long shadows with hope and dreams.”

Awakened by her light shining through my bedroom window, I’d felt bathed by something Divine. Instead of covering my head with the pillow ~ I let the celestial moment comfort me as I drifted back to sleep.

The Castle

The other big painting, a wide one with a castle atop a vineyard on a hill ~ appears light against vibrant evergreen woodlands and a star-filled, Provence blue sky. Cottages coming together form the castle, supported and unified by the expansive vineyard rising from the valley.

abstract expressionist landscape painting
Castle in the Vineyard, oil on gallery wrapped canvas, 30″ x 40″,

Supermoon Dream ~ Is it My Place in the Sun? Or just a Dream?

In a moment all the symbols embedded in the paintings fuse seamlessly as my story. Spirited palette knife strokes ~ like my signature ~ are mine alone to own.

abstract expressionist landscape painting
detail, Castle in the Vineyard, oil on gallery wrapped canvas, 30″ x 40″

I was that freshman in art history class, who sat in the back muttering ~ “the professor is nuts, the painting is just a landscape ~ how could he think the artist stopped to make up all these ridiculous symbols?”

I own this garden, it’s time to eat my words. I don’t know what artists in the Renaissance did. I do know it’s taken me a lifetime to accept and own the Creator’s gifts as my own.

Welcome to Joy’s Garden!

xxoo

Dorothy