Making Your Mark, 2

April 18, 2012 § 3 Comments

In our early student days, my friends and I would often commiserate about our lack of a consistent “style.” It wasn’t lost on us that when you visited a museum you could always pick out a Van Gogh, or a Monet, or a Franz Kline. It wasn’t just the color, or the subject matter; there was something in the mark-making that always gave it away. Not so our own struggling works. From smooth, polished surfaces to tormented, textured ones, no two paintings of our own seemed to be by the hand of the same artist.

If, like Chuck Close in the previous post, I could write a letter to my younger self, I would say, don’t fret yourself about issues that will take care of themselves in good time. So what if you don’t have a consistent style! Give yourself time to be a student, to try on many different suits of clothes, to wrestle, as an heir,  with the important ideas and questions that you’ve inherited until your own questions and ideas begin to emerge. Don’t be in such a hurry to pour yourself in place. “Style” is an ugly word. It connotes things that exist on the surface, things that can be pigeon-holed or categorized, or that can be changed from year to year on a whim. Use it only when speaking about cars, furniture, or fashion, never when speaking of paintings.

Don’t expect the timeline of your development as an artist to conform to the culture’s perverted expectation of instant results.  The truth is that your vision, and your craft (yes, I used the “c” word!), take years and years of patient slogging, sometimes with no outward sign of progress. We don’t call it apprenticeship anymore, but that’s what it is. Your taste will change, your intent will change, your understanding and feeling about things will change, and your paintings will change. Let them. One thing you can count on, your work will always reflect who you are. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. The marks you make as an artist are as autographic as your handwriting. Just get to work.

Enjoy the hand-writing of these painters in this album: Making Marks.

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