The other day I decided to watch Yao Cheng's intermediate watercolor class on painting florals on Creativebug. (I mentioned it, along with a number of other resources, in my post about learning how to paint from a couple weeks ago). Her style is very different from mine and I thought that I could benefit from looking at watercolor in a looser way than I usually paint. (Also, my friend Dana was filling up her sketchbook with such prettiness after watching the class -- you can see her paintings on Instagram. Scroll down in her feed or get an idea here, here, here and here -- and it looked like so much fun).
I'm fascinated by how other artists create their art. And I agree with Madeline's comment that it's amazing how artists working with the same materials can come up with very different end products.
It was fun to watch Yao Cheng paint. Her paintings are lovely. But a funny thing happened while I watched. I found myself talking back in my head as she painted some of her botanicals. Comments like, rose leaves don't grow like that. During the class she clearly stated that her aim is not to create realistic flowers, but to capture the essence, energy and movement of the flowers. I was intrigued by my reaction. Looking at her paintings on their own doesn't bring up any objections, but watching her paint and listening to her instructions for painting distinct types of flowers caused a very strong reaction in me.
I started thinking about how an artist develops her/his style of painting. And then I had a realization.
I paint the way I do because I am a gardener. I often crawl around in the dirt, tending my plants and studying them. I bring flowers and leaves into my studio when I'm working on a painting. Sometimes I even dig up plants roots and all to use as reference.
My paintings aren't photorealistic and I don't want them to be. Also, when I'm planning a painting I don't copy exactly what I see. I often move flowers or leaves in order to create a more pleasing composition. Even so, I do want what I'm painting to be botanically correct.
It's important to me. Being a gardener and a studier of my beloved plants directly influences my painting style. I also realized that I don't want that to change. Yao Cheng's style of painting is very popular right now, but I don't want to discard my style and preferences in order to jump on the popularity train. It isn't something I'd really thought about before.
Growing plants. Painting plants. The two are naturally connected in my mind. It seems almost too obvious even to mention.
And yet, it's fascinating to think about what influences an artist's style. There are so many factors. Experiences. Background. Inspirations. I think all of those things are also important factors in determining even non-artists' styles and tastes.
If you want to paint (or create in any way), I say follow your heart. Listen to who you are. Don't try to be someone else. Your style is there. You'll find it. The same goes for choosing art for your home. What's right, what goes together, what fits... if you love it, the art will be right, it will go with your other pieces and your furniture, it will fit.
What do you think? Do you have a distinct style? Can you find the influencing factors behind your style?