May 25, 2021
BY EDDY TAIT
How do we find our style in painting?
We are all creative beings and we express our creativity in different ways. So, when it comes to finding our creative expression through art, and in this case, with the medium of paint. How and where do we start to discover our unique style?
I love painting and while I paint a lot in my job, I am still discovering my style in my personal practice. I’ve done some thinking about this stage of the artist’s journey. And I’ve come up with three things that can help us discover and refine our style in painting. If you are new to painting or you’re unsure where to start, this may be helpful for bringing some momentum and direction to your practice.
One is to look to other artists for inspiration.
I sometimes get caught up wanting to be original with my painting but that can make it hard to begin. By taking inspiration and replicating different styles, colour palettes, and compositions, we can get a feel for what we like.
Following a painting tutorial can be a good place to start. It can take the pressure off knowing how to begin a painting. Plus you can learn new techniques to expand on in your practice. When you follow a step-by-step tutorial, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t being creative. In session at Cork & Chroma, even though everyone follows the same steps, it’s incredible to see how each painting turns out differently. People hear, see and do things differently so even when we take inspiration from another artist, the chances are, it won’t turn out the same.
If I am unsure what to paint, sometimes I turn to Pinterest and find a painting with a composition or colour palette that I like and use it as inspiration to get me started. For example, last year I was inspired by the work of Lulie Wallace. I love her bright still-life compositions and the colours and painterly abstract shapes she uses. With this in mind, I set up a still life composition of my own. A vase of flowers and some lemons perched on a yellow chair, draped with a bright aqua scarf. Then I got to work with a quick sketch and dived in with bright, bold acrylic paints. I painted freely with large brush strokes and enjoyed embracing the energy of Wallace’s work to inform and inspire my own.
I find beginning with a visual example gets the ball rolling. By starting with a finished painting as inspiration we can identify what we like about it and what elements we’d like to re-create in our own piece. And then we’re on our way to discovering our own style.
The second is practice.
This may seem obvious but it is such a big part of discovering our individual style. If we don’t try out new things and work on refining our skills, there is no way we can know what and how we like to paint.
Last year I took on one of those monthly creative challenges. It was inspired by Brisbane artist, Rachel Burke, whose handle on Instagram you may recognise as @imakstagram. The goal was to make a piece of art every day for 30 days and turn it into an art gallery in your home. It certainly was a challenge but a very rewarding one. Committing to making something every day and using that time to explore different styles helped me move past some big creative blocks. I was forced to let go of my high expectations and just ‘do it’. I wasn’t in love with all the pieces I made but some of them I really like. Churning out art for art’s sake had me making things I never thought I would. For example, one night I pulled out the hot glue gun and sculpted a prawn out of tin foil which now lives on my fridge. Some of the work I did was very quick and simple and others I put more effort in. I landed on some fun ideas which I can draw inspiration from and revisit in the future.
Keep in mind that we aren’t going to be an expert the first time around. But the more we practice the better we’ll know ourselves and the better we will be at expressing the ideas in our head.
The third is to be open to discovery.
When we lead a painting at Cork & Chroma, we lead from a place of experimentation, there is no ‘wrong way’ to do something. Interestingly, I have caught myself following certain rules in my head like, ‘you can’t mix orange and purple because it will become a gross colour’. However, one day I saw a guest in session using the purple and the orange to mix a new tone and I liked it. I’m not sure where I learned this rule but rather than sticking fast to these beliefs, I’m choosing to ask, why not? It’s good to challenge our concept of things and follow the small impulses as they arise. Even if the orange and purple don’t work out the way I am hoping this time, at least I have tried it. Maybe it will be a colour mix that I return to in a future piece.
Embrace that desire to mix up a new colour. To try a new brush or movement or tempo with your stroke. You might discover a new style or theme that you play with in a series of works.
The journey to finding our painting style is dynamic and ever-evolving. As we are influenced by events and experiences, moods, and motivations, our painting style will change. And as we practice, our skills will develop and influence how we paint. If you feel blocked, keep these things in mind, you are not alone on this creative roller coaster ride.
Well, this is where my head is at with this topic right now. If you have any thoughts or experiences you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or catch me in the Melbourne studio or in our online sessions. I look forward to continuing this painting journey with you.
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