I worry sometimes about my painting “style” or rather lack of it. Nearly all artists I know of dead or alive have a particular style or a progression through various styles. But me? I’m all over the place. And it’s not as if different types of paintings happen at different times.
This week I got back to painting surfers. I first painted them a year and half ago using a palette knife rather than my usual brushes to try to capture the movement of the sea and the progression of the body through it. It is a new thing for me as I actually enjoy the act of painting them in this way, the way a surfer enjoys a wave in the moment of surfing it and so I have decided to do more.
Like this, some of my favourite painters are more interested in the actual paint as a mode of expression rather than the forms that can be made with it. Look at Jackson Pollock who found a way to express the movement of his body, his spirit perfectly in paint, though I think you have to see his work in the flesh to appreciate it. It certainly blew me away. And Rothko, I could fall into a Rothko.
So far so good then, expressionism is my metier, what’s the problem? Well nothing except that I am also intrigued by form and feeling. This week I started two more pictures in my Nylon and Steel series, the origins of which I will go into another time. These paintings like a lot of my previous work involves hours of sometimes tedious brushwork, the satisfaction only coming when an end result is acheived, an expression of feeling through form, a different sort of expression than that of the Surfers.
The impetus for this type of work seems to be a curiosity about my skills as a painter and trying to be a bit better. These paintings are similar to Scottish painters Alison Watts works if only a fraction of the size and I will admit to being influenced by her. But material and fabric in painting has long fascinated me. Some of Millais’ paintings are amazing-look at the Black Brunswicker (look at her dress!)not to mention Vermeer (all that texture!). And the close up focus is probably reminiscent of Georgia O’Keeffe.
There are other influences and curiosities too. My Road Trip paintings in retrospect were an expression of feeling in a sort of Hopperesque style. Hopper wasn’t the greatest painter of form at all but he is untouched at portraying the isolation and loneliness that is part of being human. It is something to do with his choice of subject matter and his arrangement of objects, of light and people in his work(not to mention the colours)that conveys such melancholy.
I have liked hyper realistic work since I was a teenager(Estes!) and I also like the medium of block printing which demands an understanding of light and shadow and form as well as carving skills. I was a Durer fan as a school child.
There is so much, probably more than I can think of right now(How about Bosch or Bonnard?Turner, Cezanne, Chardin. Picasso, Kahlo, Bourgeois…oh how I love her big spiders!..and on and on.)
Before you think it, I am not putting myself up there with these giants of painting, they are here in this post because they have influenced me, made me salivate for their colours and form, their light and vision, their freedom of stroke and their skill and application. They have spun me around so I do not know which way to go and so I go every way.
I have often chided myself to just pick a path and go with it. That surely is the grown up thing to do?But doing just one thing will annoy and bore me and I will rebel by not doing anything at all. Its the same with other aspects of my life.
I don’t understand for instance how anyone likes just one sort of music. One day I could be blasting out thrash metal, the next listening to electronica, jazz, 80s pop hits or world music.
Maybe this makes me shallow, this inability to apply myself. Or maybe I have a few different personalities inhabiting me and I am actually sick. Or maybe I am a genius. Whatever it is(and the genius one seems to chime the best 🙂 ), I am not getting any younger and I figure there is no point wrestling with myself anymore, no point hoping I will find a niche to fit into or a style that will allow me to build a career and so I will try and do what I did this week. Exactly what I want to do.