26/03/2010 19:58

Style by Alkratzer

For me style is a combination of various factors that include amongst others: What you like, what design elements most intrigue you and have you excited?  and What do you want to say with your work?

What you like

Miles Davis once said that as a child he heard swing on the radio and knew immediately that he wanted to play in that style. (He is also a musician with an instantly recognizable sound and playing style) Pat Metheney, the Jazz guitarist, is currently using his guitar to trigger instruments to create whole band performances by himself. He says the results reflect "how he hears music."

I believe that visual artists all have a personal way of "seeing art." Your way of seeing is a major factor in determining whose work you are drawn to.

In my case, the artists that really wowed me as a kid were, Van Gogh, Matisse, and the Expressionists. Contemporary artists I admired were Leroy Neiman and the cosmic 1960s style of counter culture artists like Peter Max. By the time I left high school I was creating paintings that were driven by intense colors.

These days my favorites include
John Nieto 
Robert Burridge
Downe Burns
Debra Hurd (Abstract) (Sax Player)  and
Martina Shapiro.

My Art History teacher used to say "Artists are always eyes." -- that every artist is always looking around to see what others are doing. He cast the development of art from decade to decade as a progression of "artist number one saw work by artist number two and painted X, which was seen by artist number three who painted Y and caused artist number four to react by painting Z, etc." Who are you looking at? Which artists are influencing your work? Do you gather influences from a pool of artists with a strong common quality as I have, or are your influences from a wide range of styles?

What you want to say

This is an interesting area, because it encompasses what your work is about from both the subject point of view and the creative solutions you are exploring point of view.

We all know artists who tend to focus on a particular topic:
O'keeffe's flowers
Remington's wild west
and Dali's dreamscapes 
are but three examples of artist's whose subject matter became a cornerstone of their style. (Peter Pinckney's grand landscapes are a good example in the AR Forum.)

The topics chosen are the stories that the artist wishes to tell. It is not unlike novelists who work in a genera -- mystery, horror, sci-fi, romance, etc. Included in the subject matter area are the blending in of whatever emotional and intellectual statements an artist may wish to make.Another aspect of what an artist wants to say is found in their handling of design elements like line, shape, light, color, texture, form, space as well as compositional elements like contrast, balance, unity, scale, proportion, and rhythm. These are universal elements that all must come to grips with and the solutions that they devise become a part of their style. Cezanne painted the usual portrait, still life and landscape subjects of his day, but his work was also concerned with some of the underlying problems of form, shape and the flat canvas. His solutions inspired Picasso and the cubists of the next generation.

Van Gogh is largely remembered for his color, but the emotional impact of his psychological landscapes is doubly powerful due to his intense concentration on line. This can be clearly seen in a painting like this or in his pen and inks.

Picasso romped through styles during his lifetime. This portrait  is a great example of his mastery of line. His work in this style is instantly recognizable.

Other artists have focused on compositional elements. Rembrandt's  use of light and contrast is responsible for the focus and drama of his work. Jackson Pollack  and other abstract expressionists on the mid 20th century devised some new answers to the problems posed by the elements of design and composition by either striving to break free of them or by stripping them down to the basics.
(Mark Rothko Example).

Most of my own work of the last few years has been concerned with the subject of music.

This has been on two levels -- the topic has been musicians and musical instruments, while the underlying formal consideration has been about the parallels between the twelve tones of the western musical spectrum with the twelve hues of the standard color wheel. (See the two attached images below.)

What do you want to say with your work?
What design elements most intrigue you and have you excited?
If you choose a subject and stick with it, it will become a part of your style.