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Monday, November 30, 2015

The Evolution of Style...What is the Key?

'Beautiful Dreams'           9x12          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
painting available here $155
 An interesting thing is happening. As I sift through my piles and piles of daily paintings I am seeing my painting style emerge right before my eyes. I guess that is one benefit of not throwing a single painting out over the last 11 years. I have physical evidence of my growth as an artist.

Style and originality is something I never really thought much about. I remember reading a quote from Robert Henri who had these wise words:

"Don't worry about your originality. You couldn't get rid of it even if you wanted to. It will stick with you and show up for better or worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do." Robert Henri

So I never worried. I just kept painting. And not only did my style emerge...it went through changes as it evolved. Have a look at today's painting (at the top of the post) and compare it to the ones below.

8x10 pastel from 2009

One of my favorite motifs has been Queen Anne's Lace. It is interesting to see that my treatment of them has changed over the last several years. I began painting wildflowers back in 2009. I chose a low point of view which is a nod to my photography days and the way I would take wildflower photos.  I still paint the flowers from this point of view. I even use similar colors.  But much more has changed as I have evolved.

In looking at all three paintings it is clear to me what has changed the most......my mark making. The way I apply the pastel and how I make my marks has become more restrained and simplified. I have learned to say more with less. I have developed a lighter touch and started to become more aware of the power of edges. Softer marks, harder marks, bold, linear, blended...learning how to finesse my marks has been the key to making my paintings more expressive. Marks matter!

My friend and fantastic artist Barbara Jaenicke has just written a great article on mark making. You can read it on her blog here.

8x10 pastel from 2013
TRY THIS:  Pick one of your favorite subjects and find paintings or photos of paintings of this subject that you have painted over the years. Now paint it again. Compare them and write down your observations. You will learn a lot about yourself by doing this exercise!


Sea Dean said...

I can see what you are saying about your style emerging, but my favourite is the one from 2009 for what it's worth. I'm a big fan of Manet and I prefer more contrast in my florals. I can see that the composition is too centered and the pod at the top is too close to the edge, but I love the way the flowers are more strongly defined.

Being a multi media artist I've always had a problem with congruent style. It's tough to keep my love of graphics, design, jewellery, pottery, sculpture, photography, metalwork etc. from creeping into my painting. Currently I have two painting styles which I'm trying to merge with difficulty. My pet portraits are more detailed, smooth and defined, especially the ones on Canson Arches Board which is my favourite for portraits. My landscapes are highly textured to the point of abstraction with bold palette knife and brushwork. The only way I seem to be able to merge the two is to make the background loose in my portraits.... watch this space as they say. :)

robertsloan2art said...

Oh yes! Wonderful glimpse of your growth and changes. Great quote from Robert Henri. I completely agree with him. It's like handwriting, once you learn to write it will show and you'll be yourself no matter what. But the better you get, the stronger and clearer it gets!

Every time I find older pieces I get surprised at how much more I've learned - but I can still see that it's mine. Even the few pieces from childhood I have left, my line was there in them. Over the years I get more concise and my graceful lines more poetic.

I also listen to others' descriptions of my style and it startles me. Artist friends often comment that I'm bold as a painter, or confident. I wind up a bit surprised at that because I don't think of it as courage to use a strong color or contrast, I just like strong color and contrast and drama! I love the things that I do and the more I learn, the more of the things I always wanted to paint come into reach and are easy to paint.

My next challenge, next year's challenge is horses, and horses in the landscape. Also to put my cats into natural settings and not just float them in white space. I'm looking forward to Arkansas and the freedom of using my power scooter outdoors, of having a ramp out of my house to go in and out as I please. It'll be great!

I've spent a lifetime preparing for plein air and at least in good seasons, will finally be able to get out and do it! 2015 was the year I really mastered sketching and simplified enough to go fast on site! Or capture a moving cat's repeated pose instead of having to wait till it's asleep! I really want to paint the cougars and bobcats outdoors too, though don't expect live models to show up and greet me except at the big cat rescue.