We all want our work to improve. We all want to produce great work. We all want to achieve a style with our painting that is clearly recognizable as our own, a ‘Signature Style’.
That’s all very well, but how does one go about developing a signature style? What is a signature style? What does it look like?
It goes without saying that this process is going to involve work. It’s going to mean hard work, lots of it. It’s going to require tenacity, persistence, dedication, courage. Are we up for it?
I’ve recently had this flash of brilliance (or something). I decided that starting every piece with the idea of creating a great painting, is NOT helpful. By putting that kind of pressure on ourselves, we are not leaving room for growth and development. We risk becoming stale, we start painting with fear (of making a mistake), rather than with joy. That is not conducive to what we are trying to achieve.
Here’s what I think will help: Paint regularly, every day if possible. (I know, you’ve heard this before, but have you tried it?) Paint a lot, one after the other, and just see what happens. Try working in series. Have several projects on the go at the same time, in different stages, so you’re not obsessing about just one of them, but moving them all along at the same time. You work on one for a while, put it aside and work on something else, etc. When you get back to the first one, you may see it with different eyes. It’s like stepping back, or looking through the mirror. You see the work in a different way and it helps see what might need improving.
The thing is: Don’t worry about what you’re doing, just try to do a lot and regularly. If something works, great. If not, gesso over and start again. Just do it, over and over again. One, you will be freed of the pressure to produce a successful painting each time, and two, you will get lots of practice and lots of chances to do over. You will learn a lot in the process. Your work WILL improve. If all goes well, your work will slowly start showing traces of something special, something clearly ‘you’. Not every piece will be great, but some will be.
As Robert Genn says all the time: ‘go to your room, and paint a hundred paintings’. This will not only help improve your skills, it will help develop your vision of you who are as an artist, and here’s the bonus, it will help you find and develop your own Signature Style.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” (Calvin Coolidge)