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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Shopping for a Style

One of the top ten questions in creative art classes is "How can I develop a style?" The bad news is you can't pick a style any more than you can choose a new personality. You can copy someone else's style and some artists are really good at this. But that isn't authentic style.

Your true style is like your handwriting. After you learn to form the letters of the alphabet and make them into words, your handwriting takes on a life of its own, influenced by your personality, physical energy and circumstances. You don't even think about it. And if you deliberately try to change, it may deteriorate beyond repair. I know, because I tried. My sixth grade teacher didn't like the slope of my natural handwriting, so she forced me to write "backhand." As a result my handwriting became an illegible scribble. So I took myself in hand and taught myself rudimentary Italic writing. For awhile my handwriting was fantastic. But when I let down my guard, I slipped back into my old ways, and now I can only say my editors are grateful for my computer and typing skills.

The good news is–you have within you the resources for a unique artistic style. But you have to let it find you. Read that sentence again. Your style finds you. You don't magically find your style. Style is the imprint of your personality–your spirit–on your art. It comes about as a result of your experience, as well as your choice of materials and the way you handle them. Style doesn't happen in a flash. It evolves over a long period of time. The only thing that can stop it is your determination to master a style that might be totally wrong for you. Don't force style, or you'll never cultivate one.

Even beginners have a style. After a couple of weeks of basic watercolor classes, I see differences in the way each student handles the brush, applies a wash, mixes color. It's important for a teacher to notice and encourage these differences, not to insist on a single "right" way of doing things. In time, when you hang a collection of your work, people will say they recognize your style. This may come as a shock to you, because you think you don't have a style. Well, you do, and it is always hovering somewhere under the surface, looking for a way out. Yes, style can change, but it's usually a gradual change, not a big jump.

Try many things and see what works best for you. Keep on doing it. Don't paint by imitation. Make every artwork a statement revealing something of yourself and choose the materials and methods that best express what you want to say. Tell your story your way–no one else can do this for you. Believe in the value of what you have to say.

The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning ....That is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul. Wassily Kandinsky

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're so right. Funnily enough my experience was almost the opposite. I had a fairly legible joined-up writing style, when at school, until I was taught Italics. My handwriting then became a mish-mash of both styles and I could never write in any fluid style thereafter!
Great blog.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Nita said...

I had a slanted style before that teacher got hold of me. Anyone old enough will remember the Zane-Blosser writing workbooks that had lines spaced for "ideal" writing and you were supposed to have rounded letters, not slanted ones. The Italic slant was more like my earlier writing, plus I had to slow down to write it, which is probably the key to the whole thing. I can write legibly if I take the time. Not sure where that time is going to come from, though.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Jan's Art and Musings said...

Thank you Nita for your words about style finding the artist. I'm "desperately seeking style" and apparently others are seeing it, but I haven't found it yet. You remind me to stop seeking and it shall find me!

11:36 AM  

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