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