One of the biggest challenges an artist faces is developing a cohesive style whilst constantly challenging one self. (hmm. that was a tad generic - perhaps I should rather say it's one of the biggest challenges I face).
Style is important. It makes your work recognisable. It reassures galleries, who see a constant dipping in and out of different methods as the sign of an immature artist. But it also can seem highly restrictive - how can one develop if one is repeating the same thing in different variations over and over again? and where is the line drawn between progression of that style, and doing something totally new and different every week?
In my last entry, I mentioned that I was experimenting with different media - acrylic on very thin paper with chalks. I did struggle on with this for a while, and produced around 7 or 8 sketches using this method, but ultimately I didn't feel I was getting anywhere with these.
There comes a point, ultimately when you have to concede to yourself - this method just isn't working. That building up a body of work that hangs together is only important if the body of work is essentially something that you can succeed with.
The solution was to buy bigger, heavier paper, gummed watercolour paper that I can load with paint and it won't buckle, won't protest. We had a little trip into Bordeaux where I did just that, and I gleefully set about punishing the new paper with lots of water, lots of paint, lots of colour.
This is a sketch of my brother done whilst in Bordeaux and coloured up after - potraiture is really not my thing ( it looks nothing like my poor brother), but it felt so good to play with colour again, and get away from the muted effect in the paintings above. But where's the style, my head was screaming - how does this fit in to my body of work? It doesn't.
So I stopped and had a bit of a think. I'm away from home, I don't have all my usual tools around me. It's ok to experiment. It's ok to take this time out of linear progression and try and do altogether new things. It's ok if they don't work, or if they don't fit. With this pep talk in mind, I let myself go completely freestyle, concentrating only on the colours I wanted to achieve, and letting my mind wander a little.
And I started to paint a little french valley out of my minds eye, following it with another as my mind travelled along the horizon ( from right to left, strangely), and another... and now I'm just having fun seeing how much of this place I can 'see' before the vision runs out.
Developing a cohesive style is important. It will demonstrate to myself as much as anyone else that my art is backed by rigour, and thought, rather than just the dabblings of an amateur. But it can wait a little longer.