Style: Every artist has it, needs it and wants it. So what exactly is it?
Instead of beginning with an authoritative quote from the dictionary I’d like to propose a few ideas of my own about artistic style.
Style is that seemingly elusive yet nearly tangible quality of an artist that sets him or her apart from other artists. Style reflects or manifests an artist character, integrity, mind, experience, decision and summarily their ‘soul’. Do all artists have style? Yes I believe they do no matter if they are just starting or have years of experience. A beginning artist often worries about having or discovering their style. Perhaps, really, the concern should be to develop their style.
In real time Style appears to be about things like the artists choice of colours ( her favourites), subject matter, support ( canvas, paper, brick wall, etc) ,medium, brush strokes, detail or abstract, etc. However these all come about ( in my opinion) as the artist’s inherent and instinctive style is developed through learning , practice – trial and error. We are all conceived as human beings but given the time to grow we develop our own character.
Style is our own approach. It is our way in which we think and do. Style is like developing our own signature. One person writes -almost prints their name in bold. Another person writes more cursively ( stylistically, so to speak). The style is not necessarily the final product but our approach to the problem or challenge at that point in our lives. I think this is why a child may have a different apparent style of writing than they will as an adult. In each case along the timeline of our artistic lives we have our own style and it develops or evolves by choice and chance and practice. I see style as more of a verb than a noun.
Let’s take Elvis as an example. Yeah, THE Elvis- Shake , Rattle and Roll ! Most everyone knows of Elvis Presley to some extent or has heard his music. Even though television often refused at first to present him fully legged from the waste down his fame increased all the more. When we think of Elvis we may think of his style as the sway of his hips or how he held the microphone. To say this however would be to ignore the lyrical antics of Elvis’ musical countrymen like Chuck Berry , who had his own “sway” and movement. In fact a recent viewing of Tom Cochrane’s guitar swaying in No Regrets is not completely unlike Chuck Berry’s movement sometimes in Maybellene (at 2.19 mins in). I suspect Chuck was a little self restrained for Television.
So my point here is not to say that all of these gents had the same portion of talent, vocal range or genius. My point is that although style will never be unique due to our physical limitation it is really the fighting spirit or the ‘soul’ of the artist that shines through in what we call Style. It’s really all about how bad you want it. Your vision as an artist will be expressed through you own personal style in which driven by your ‘spirit’, love for the art, need to communicate are realized.
The only real way to develop your style is to work it out. What appears easy often takes a lot of work. A bird usually must work it’s wings hard and fast in order to reach a point where it can soar on the highest currents. Work for the artist is mental and physical. You must decide as you go on what your best medium is ( what feels right, what you like). Then you must practice and experiment. Then the act of creation seems more spiritual. Suddenly you will find your self from time to time, soaring as if all of the universe has come together in you in one brief moment. My contention is that the entire process is ‘spiritual’ in that we involve our spirit and our pysche even during those times when we are literally slugging away, dragging ourselves into the studio or in front of the easel. This is not to say that moments of euphoria or excitement aren’t desired to motivate but I think this is a different topic saved for a different day.
So these are my thoughts on Style. Likely there is much more that could be said. Is it possible to perfect a style? Or again, is the emphasis to be placed more on perfect as a process than as having actually achieved or arrived at a point of perfection? My take away from all of this is that every artist has style. This is comforting especially to a beginning artist. You already have a style that is uniquely you! In time , with practice, that style will become undeniably apparent to others. Your work will stand beside you like your very own offspring having it’s own identity but sharing a marked resemblance in features to you , the parent.
Now I suppose I should go look up the definition of Style. I tend to do things in reverse order sometimes. I guess, though, that’s just part of my style.
Thanks for reading. What do you think?
“Every artist dips his brush into his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures” – Henry ward Beecher