Thursday, July 30, 2009

Finding Your Style

“It was in the fall of 1915 that I first had the idea that what I had been taught was of little value to me except for the use of my materials as a language --charcoal, pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, pastel, and oil. . . . .But what to say with them? ....After careful thinking I decided that I wasn’t going to spend my life doing what had already been done.” Georgia O’Keeffe

When I went to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe in May I was knocked out by seeing the confidence in her work. There is no equivocating. Even in her early watercolors, like the one above, she just puts that paint down exactly where she wants it and that's final.

Harry Truman used to say he was looking for a one-handed economist because he was tired of hearing "on th
e other hand." Sometimes I look at a painting in progress and feel it's been painted by someone with five hands. The style keeps changing, getting farther and farther from bold and clear.

Franklyn Liegel, former teacher of mine at Otis College of Art and Design, passed on a number of ideas I try to dredge up when struggling with style. The most helpful, I think, is to spend some time identifying what draws you in by looking at images you like as well as ones you hate. We were urged to spend some time with these images, from magazines, library books, whatever, not to get ideas to imitate, but to figure out where we like to be - with big shapes, fractured spaces, strong colors, whatever it might be.

Painted this alley diptych from a photo taken in Seattle after the trip to Santa Fe; I've have almost stopped changing it around.

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