What is your style?

“What is your style?”, a question I have willfully side-stepped to avoid being tucked into an ill fitting box since I began painting.  Call me rebellious, but who out there likes being labelled?  “What do you paint?” comes in a close second in erecting walls around my work pressing the air out of my studio.  There are so many ways to be in the world, how could I choose just one?

It’s maybe a little like choosing a tattoo.  While I admit to being intrigued, my friend Elizabeth put it best when she said she just could not come up with one image that completely defined who she is.  Agreed.  I am thinking that is why one tattoo is rarely what is sported out there by tattoo enthusiasts.  In fact a handsome young man I met in Maui explained that his extraordinary (truly exquisite inking) tattooed body contained all his life experiences added over his long (cough, really?) life. He was 24 years old.  Given a natural limit on skin surface he might need to plan for an early and peaceful retirement.  But yes, even he was not limited by a single image or label.

It took miles of canvas to uncover the way color flowed from my creative source, through my head, heart, soul then arm and fingers grasped around a lacquered brush handle loaded with paint.  Add that to the way my small slender body perches in front of an easel, the arc of limbs, twisting wrists.  Gallons of paint mixed, swished and pushed to discover the breadth of my palette.  Following Masters for inspiration, I joined working artists with tools and skills I needed to say what I wanted to with colorful pigments.  Today, still learning, I lean toward landscape and organic subjects over cityscapes, animals over people, mostly alpine rarely seascapes, outside versus interiors, sunlight over fog and nocturnes.  But I have painted them all during the course of 20+ serious years of searching.

My learning began with classes in classical realism.  Rendering is a thinking brain activity used to draw accurately with line and perspective.  It is necessary to make images correct to the thinking mind and a very powerful tool to create “realistic” images. The Paris Salon in the 1800s favored this high realism and narrative paintings steeped in historical references until radical painters (later tagged Impressionists) set about creating paintings that “felt” more real.  The move from academic head created works to intuitive heart felt works was a power shift away from art critics to art lovers who decided what was worthy.

My shift was similar.  Learning to render objects realistically remains important but my heart seeks a deeper truth.

Painting among working contemporary impressionist artists,  I began to find my path seeking what they sought.  Being ferociously independent, maintaining my artistic vision was soul preservation.   How could I define my way of approaching a blank canvas, co-create a work with the influence of light, subject, immediacy at the same time honoring the visceral experience of pushing paint around with a fuzzy tipped stick?

Through practiced experimentation staying open to responding emotionally to the movement of the paint itself kept my work fresh and authentic.  Time and practice, with others early on, mostly alone in later years led me in my search. I learned to express shapes and moved to the edge of the impressionistic realm into the world of expressionism, but not fully.  That is where my art teeters right now, in the blurred twilight of artistic tides merging.  My way is a reflection of my duality, both a right and left brain painter.

Every painting has a unique life to it, start to finish.  Is this painting layered with underpainting in muted or vivid color followed by pieces of pigment, laid on top or mixing up with the color beneath?  Is this artwork laid in directly, fast and furiously with little thought and mostly intuition? Am I chasing a shadow or moonlight or just responding to flowers opening or soon to lose their petals?  Is it a gesture captured of a living creature stamped on a photo that needs life, movement or a breeze to capture its essence?  No tidy packaged plan of execution.  Each painting a summation of everything learned up until that moment then released on to a surface.

The next lesson learned ready for the next metamorphic experiment.

Process, over style.  A humble attempt to honor a life force infused in every tree, sky, creature.  Challenging myself to understand those singular moments; to capture even  just a hint of that energy in each work.  Express the shapes, hoping to convey Life to the viewer.  An impression of movement, light and life that transports.  Creating what feels impossibly alive, a thrum of vitality when gazing at each painting.

So there it is.  There is no style. I am my process not a producer of product.  It is the way my spirit was gifted to create.  Call it voice if you like. I call it expressive impressionism.  It is full body, mind and spirit dancing with the physical limitations of the medium mixed with experience, paint, light and surfaces.


“Fresh Air Painting on the Mountain”

July 08 - July 12, 2024
Monteagle, Tennessee

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