The Right Painting Style

Although there is no right painting style, there is the right style for each individual artist.  I say this because my style has changed a lot since I first started painting.  When young and inexperienced, as I was, the influence of teachers, peers and the big names in Art History, plus trends in art styles, can mean a young artist develops a style that is not best suited to them, I think this probably happened to me.

The style that was popular when I first started painting in oils was Abstract Expressionism, which had been around for decades and was the default style taught by teachers who had probably learnt themselves in that way.  Thinking about it now I can see why it was and probably still is popular because it is both Abstract and Expressionistic and therefore it's a great way to get young painters to free themselves up, the style often depicting the painter's world in an emotive and expressive way.  This was my chosen style for quite some time but it didn't suit me in the long term or my work-flow either.

During my artistic life I've had many breaks from painting, often replaced with other crafts and creative interests, but have come to the conclusion that this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Gaps can enable a kind of detox which can be refreshing, they can allow space to just get on with life, gain experience, develop a sense of self, prevent burn-out and could mean longevity working later in life as a result.  Your skills are often just as good as they were and in some cases better with time.  I have experienced something similar with music. I found music theory frustrating when I was younger; I would try to read it but a lot of the time I didn't have the patience. However, years later I found that the information had gone in and was there in my brain, tucked away in a box as it were, and now being more mature and relaxed I could bring it out, understand it better and use it.

Away from the influences I mentioned earlier I have developed a better understanding of what my style is.  I had always had a strong tendency towards design but once at art college decided to change my direction from Fashion to Fine Art.  I tried to get rid of the design aesthetic, seeing the two disciplines as polar opposites.  Now I realise that strong design skills could have been a strength if I had known how to incorporate them better.

I enjoy using colour as this is a bit of a strength, but I have to say that I wasn't taught anything about it really apart from the absolute basics.  I believe colour is something that many painters would do well to know more about.  I feel that many paintings are ruined by the use of unrelated colours. I'm also not keen on the plastic finish that some acrylic paintings have.  Colour theory is a science and actually requires quite a bit of studying to understand it properly.  I found out more about colour in a pattern-cutting class than I did at art school.  I don't know if schools and colleges teach colour theory today, but if they don't they probably should.  It's better to have a skill even if you don't think you'll need it initially as you may change during later development.

I've tried to utilise the elements of design in my recent pieces and I now paint in a much less expressionistic way than I did previously.  I use line and colour and paint in flat planes.  I'm not really interested in depicting emotion and I try to keep representational scenes to a minimum.  This has led to painting in a predominantly abstract and sometimes non-representative way.   I find working in a non-representative way very liberating as I don't have to rely upon a subject drawn from the world around me, but more from my imagination.  This is what I missed earlier in my life as an artist.  In fact I would go as far as to say that because I was good at drawing what was around me I relied too heavily upon this for inspiration.

I admire the work of the Russian Constructivists and the De Stijl movement, particularly in regards to painting.  Although their painting is superficially similar to later works from the 60's Abstract movement, I find their understanding of colour and how they applied it more aesthetically pleasing.  There seems to be a tradition there, a type of classicism in the way they use colour.  This is what I find exquisite about many of these works, a juxtaposition between modernism and classicism. This is something I aspire to in my own work but I have to say, it's very elusive.

Composition No.15 by Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, 1925. This is what I mean by exquisite colour.

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