Friday, February 06, 2009


I have been thinking lately about the natural progression of an artists' style, and specifically how mine has evolved. 

In my earlier years I copied other artists work (Richard Stone Reeves, Sam Savitt, Wesley Dennis, and horse racing photographers in Sports Illustrated, to name a few), striving for a photo-representational final piece. I worked in charcoal, pen and ink, watercolor, colored pencil, pastel, acrylic paint and oils, trying to master the hand-eye bit. Success was measured by how close my finished piece got to representing the real thing.

In college I was encouraged to step away from representation and explore the possibilities of color, form and line purely on their own. I lost myself in the joy of laying down shapes and building up texture free from any notions of perspective or actuality. Any surface fell victim to my tools - fingers, scraps of canvas, palette knives, spatulas, vermiculite, and even a garlic press - all called to duty in building my paintings. Success was measured by the balance of pattern and strength of composition, as well as a certain experimentation with the paint and other elements.

Post graduate work had me building installations. I began creating physical spaces asking the viewer to examine their thoughts on ideas like memory, home, and a woman's role. Of course, while I was making this art, I was considering my own life journey, getting married, creating a home of my own half way across the country, and having children. Success was now measured by my internal processing - what questions did I need to ask that would help lead me to my own happily ever after?

And then I stepped away from art-making for a bit.

Now, more than a decade later, I'm back painting. I've been painting subject matter that I love (animals) and doing it pretty much on my own (although I have been taking the occasional class, I'm not completely immersed in any sort of program). Most recently I realized that I've developed my own style, one that blends lessons I've taken in from the earlier phases of my life.

My work is rooted in representation, yet there is a passion for color and gesture that comes from my love for abstraction and art-for-arts-sake (or "just because" sorts of art). And my best pieces also are able to convey an emotion, hint at that relationship, between the viewer and the subject of the painting.

All this sort of smacked me when I got Duane Keiser's latest oddments paintings delivered to my inbox yesterday ( , #57 and #58). He painted some conversation hearts, which you may recall I tried my hand at last month. His hearts look just like what I envisioned mine should have been. Yet at the time I painted mine, I was pleased with my effort, even though I knew they had fallen short of what I wanted them to be.

You see, still lifes are all very new to me, and consequently I feel as though I'm back at the beginning, trying to paint things tightly and very representationally. Yet what I really strive to do is paint them with freedom that comes from total comfort with my subject, my tools, and my talents.

When I shared Duane Keiser's conversation hearts with a friend (Tami Oyler - you must take a peek at her work -, her response was "Art is when I draw Point A and Point B, and you dance in the spaces in-between."

I love that concept. It sums up where I want to be. And where I'm already en route to. Dancing.
Thanks, Tami!

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