Changing Styles - Can It Be Done?

11:22 AM

Snapdragons
Watercolor and White Ink
Stillman and Birn Bound Beta Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches (Image Cropped)
With four straight days of rain last week, I found myself in need of something bright and cheerful.

Snapdragon blossoms to the rescue!

It's actually been a mild winter for us so far. (Stop throwing snowballs!! It's not my fault you're having a wicked winter!) And we've been getting a lot of grey days whether we get rain or not.

The image above is a slight departure from my usual work as it's really just suggested shapes. I did a very simplistic pencil sketch to get down the shape of the bottle and placement of stems.

After that, I just let the paint fly without too much concern about bleeds, actual petals or any details.

Of course, being me, I just had to go back in with white pen on the white stem to bring back some of the white highlights I lost.

Then, being me again, I had to futz around with the bottle.

I can't say that I'm satisfied though.

Why?

Because one of the things I'm working on this year with my work is being looser. And when you're driven by and addicted to details, it's damn difficult to let. them. go.

Which brings me around to the question I posed in the title of this post—can we change our style?

At first blush, I would say no. It's hard to escape ourselves.

My husband and I have had this discussion numerous times. He say's no. I used to agree. I think I still do, but...

Now, I believe styles evolve.

Think back to when you first started sketching or painting…do you see a difference in your work today?

Probably. That's evolution. The more we know, the stronger our skills, the more it reflects in our work.

I also think it depends on the direction we push our work as it begins to develops.

However, underneath all the work, all the determination, all the struggle, is my inherent style of being a careful, tight, detail-oriented artist. As I mentioned, it's hard to escape ourselves.

When I was in art school, the instructor believed there were two types of artists—those who could copy another's work exactly and those who could not. I fell into the second category and I've only ever met one person who truly fell into the first—they're rare.

The woman, who had no style of her own, showed me her catalog of work and regardless of the instructor, her work looked exactly like the instructor's! She had taken a lot of classes, too. When I asked what happened when she worked on her own, she said her work was all over the place—it depended on the subject matter and her mood.

But what about those of us who do have styles that were not crazy about? If we don't like our style or we're bored and we want to change it, what can we do? Our we stuck with it no matter what?

Well, I'm going to be exploring those questions in the next few months and I'd love to know your thoughts on styles, whether they can be changed and if you like yours or not. Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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20 Creative Thought(s)

  1. I believe we evolve. I think we can alter things if we are consciously working at it and if we practice enough it will somewhat become natural. I tend to like things lined up. Chaotic in color and perhaps line but lined up nice and tidy. I fight this all the time as most people want to see things more varied. An example is putting three boxes on a page. I tend to put three neat squares on the right side of the page and then have a riot filling them. I have to remember that overlapping them, putting them on the left or cattywampus are good and should be used to alleviate the boredom.

    The more we learn and practice the more we can be comfortable doing and this becomes a sort of toolbox such as you used on your pretty flowers in the jar. Underneath though, I think we have a way of drawing and painting that is more natural to us and when we stop the thinking and just create we will fall back on that.

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    1. I agree with you, Timaree. I think we go back to our "default" or innate style anytime we stop thinking consciously about our work.

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  2. I think it's different for everybody...for me , I like my style and have not ever thought I had it all pinned down, I don't find it the 'same old same old" way to
    tackle a page in my sketch books. Maybe because I use mixed ways and never am sure about how things will turn out----so it is all reveled in the end...they way it looks just says..".that's a wrap Jill."..There are some looser methods I have tried over the 79 years and not liked and since that has happened eleventy hundred times, I am sure that's not a tune I can sing well.....but........every once in a while it
    is a hit.....so there's a surprise for me...I know exactly WHY I work the way I work and that stems from childhood....but being a big girl now, I could change--but I don't want to...I have seen some work suffer by artists that have forsaken all they did before they were led down a sad path due to a mix of circumstances...from a lot I have read---we often have much in common as artists...and I do know we are blessed to have this way of life ....I think I will stop now and hope to find lots of people commenting ....thank you Laure for asking this question

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    1. Winna, I think you're one of the fortunate ones—most folks I know struggle to love or even like their style. And like you, I get something loose that I like every once in a great while. Most of the time, it can hit the garbage!

      Interesting thought about letting the work take you down such a sad path that it ruins their work or maybe the enjoyment of the work.

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  3. I have thought about this a lot. I have even tried to change my style. If it can happen it doesn't happen easily. I haven't managed to change some things I wish I could change but as you know practice makes things better. I do know my work has evolved in a way I like but always room for improvement. I am never satisfied. Are you ever satisfied? Can we be satisfied as artists with so many beautiful avenues to take?

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    1. The day I become satisfied will be the day I hang up my brushes, Lisa! I've often said there's no such thing as a perfect painting, sketch, page, anything. If I start to think of my work as perfect or become satisfied, I'm doomed!

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  4. For me, a change in media can encourage a change in style. Or subject matter. But some underlying elements always remain. So I would agree that an artist's style will evolve. It's working on making those changes, however small, that keeps me going.

    I love your snapdragons! But I think I love that shadow and the space around them even more. :-)

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    1. Ann, you read my mind! That's where I'm going next. To a change in media to help push me in the direction I'm wanting to go.

      As for the shadow, that's actually a mistake! I painted it and it wouldn't "lay down" so I had to add the horizon line to break it up!

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  5. Laure - first let me say I always enjoy my visit to your blog. You really discuss subjects that make me look deeper into my own art as well as others. Perhaps we do change as we become more skilled but I essentially think we carry our own style even within those changes. By the way I love those beautiful snapdragons. Hope you won't change a thing! Have a great day. Thanks too for stopping by to visit me.

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    1. Debbie, the snapdragons could be looser, but at least it's a step in the direction I want to go. I think it helps for us to step back from the process of creating to really think about where we're going, why we're going there and what it is we're seeking.

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  6. I really like reading your thoughts on this. I agree styles seem to evolve, in baby steps, as one learns or realizes a new little tip or technique or way of doing things that has personal appeal. It seems difficult to get myself to paint in a looser, less realistic style, unless I have a clear image of non-realistic looseness in my mind, or I have developed a kind of "recipe" towards achieving that effect. It seems an artist's style is also dependent on what they see or notice mostly--is it the contour lines or the general value shapes? If they notice edges and lines more than groupings of similar value shapes, they might tend to draw then paint--which is one defining characteristic of style. If color is their "thing" they might have a style that plays with color, sometimes to the point of making unrealistic colors in their paintings. But one thing I've found to be a basic truth--I've found that it's awfully hard to paint in a style I really don't understand. Oh, I may admire it, but if I don't understand it, I just can't seem to do it very well.

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    1. One of the artists that has always fascinated me is Milford Zornes. If you look at his early works he was quite realistic and representational. As time marched on how work evolved keeping the representational, but the realistic departed. I wouldn't say his work is loose and juicy, but there's so much more play in it.

      Did that come for understanding a new style, wanting to change his style, or something else? I don't know, but I am intrigued with how much his art changed. I have to agree with you thought that it does seem to start with how we "see" or interpret the view and get it on the page. Some folks seem born to paint loose and some to draw and some to paint tight.

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  7. loving the simplicity of the art, simple bottle shape and snapdragons are so olde-worlde aren't they? It must've been such a sweet time, to sit with them and replicate them on your paper Laure'. I know what you're saying about loosening up because as a non-artist, whenever I did 'try' that was where I got caught up --- I couldn't help but be too serious about getting it right :)! I'm sure though with your long experience that you will find your way

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    1. Thanks, Carole. I am beginning to think that details and reality are overrated! And I wonder how many of us have given up on the creative pursuit because we couldn't make something look right. Too many, I'm sure!

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  8. I very much like the idea of evolving style. I feel like I haven't sketched and painted enough to have the style I'd like to have (what I see in my mind's eye almost never matches what is on the paper), and frankly, it varies from day to day what I'd like that style to be. I'll follow your thoughts and the comments about this with interest.

    I love your painting, too--gorgeous colors to brighten up our gray days.

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    1. I'm not sure I've ever painted an image that looked like what was in my mind's eye, KJ. I occasionally get lucky and paint something that I like even better than what I had first set out to paint, but mostly, I don't try to paint what's in my mind's eye. I focus instead on the view in front of me and let what happens on the page, happen. It's a lot less stressful and disappoint that way!

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  9. Yes..styles evolve! I too, tend to be very detailed...not loose at all. But I'm trying to be a little more 'whimsical' and am succeeding...somewhat. So even tho there is still a lot of detail...the results are lighter..more fun...keep on truck in'...

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    1. Funny you should mention whimsical, Loretta, I'm finding an element of whimsy peeking out in some of my work as well. I'm hoping it will become stronger as I really like it. Thanks for joining the discussion!

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  10. Evolution! I go back to older stuff and think "oh my..." and I'm sure a few years from now I will look at my current stuff and think the same thing. Yet it all has the same feel, the same basic shapes - yet it is different. - that's the beauty of growth

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  11. Anyway.... first thing - I LOVE your fresh bouquet of snapdragons. I'd recognize them anywhere! They are so cheery! They also bring back happy memories of playing with them - putting a flower on my finger and pretending it was a puppet.

    As for your questions... I like your suggestion of the word 'evolve'. That sounds like what I have experienced. I don't think I can outright 'change' which sounds more black/white to me. But I do know that my sketching/painting has evolved over the years being influenced by teachers and peers as well as increasing skill. It seems to me to be similar to 'accents' - where being around someone with a strong accent - that parts will rub off on you. I think style in art is somewhat similar unless you are really focusing on 'how you do it' such that you really aren't affected by others. For me, it is more natural to pick up things along the way - and much of it is unconscious. ;-) Interesting questions.

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