Having a strong individual voice is as important in art as in anything that gets marketed. It’s confusing to the viewer if you’re constantly in flux, and clients or galleries prefer a distinctive look.
Lots of people who are just beginning in art paint a vast array of subjects: still lifes, landscapes, people or animals, and they experiment with many different media as well. Recently a few people have asked about learning abstraction from me, but I don’t think it is something I can teach. My theory is that you need to go through a long period of experimenting, of trying new things until you find something that really fits you and is unique to you.
One friend, Kayla, told me that she had a friend over to her house who immediately recognized my painting: “Oh you have a Mary Anne! I love her paintings!” This was a huge compliment for me, both to be recognized for my style and to be recognized, period, by someone who isn’t in my immediate family.
However, once you find your “style” you need to be able to evolve it enough so that you can keep growing. We’ve all seen painters who get trapped by their success, churning out copies of their one original style because it sells. I wonder if this turns the wonderfully creative act of painting into manufacturing.
I have spent a lot of 2012 playing in the studio, experimenting with work that is quite different for me. First off, I’ve been doing some representational pencil drawings, which I can use as layers on my process paintings. Secondly, I usually paint on panels, but I had some canvas panels gathering dust and I wanted to do something new. The results are these paintings which I have tried to layer using paint and medium, with mixed results. But I like these paintings very much, I’m not sure where they will lead, but sometimes you just have to follow the creative muse. In the ten+ years I’ve been painting, I find that whatever you do in the studio is never wasted, it shows up somewhere. No matter where you are in your painting life, you need to try new things.