Painting Styles

Warning – personal opinion! High key, mid key, low key-that is the question. I’m revisiting something I said in my Inspiration – part 7 regarding styles of painting. Have you ever looked at another artist’s work and mostly seen only darkness? I’m not referring to dark against light for contrast and impact-I mean so dark that it almost screams “severe clinical depression here”, where there really is no contrast to draw your eye! I’ve seen some works by artists I greatly admire that lose me immediately because they just seem to want to take me to a dark, foreboding place where I don’t want to go. I’ve sometimes particularly seen this in portraits, which makes me wonder if the artist is really seeing a dark soul in the subject or maybe is in a very dark place himself/herself at the time of the work. Does the artist want us to examine that part of our own psyches-or does it simply say something about his own?

That brings me back to my previous mention of gravitating to softer works. Those and bright, colorful works make my brain happy and inspire me so much more. Those preferences drive my artistic spirit and I think we should all paint what we are most drawn to. While I believe that we all, as artists, need to stretch ourselves with different subject matter, styles and even media, we still seem to gravitate back to the subjects that most drew us in the first place. I have a friend who almost exclusively paints outdoor and/or farm scenes and another who prefers wildlife subjects; both are fantastic artists and their subject matter told me a lot about who they are before I got to know them personally! Since I love to garden and I’m most comfortable and happy around water – lakes, streams, waterfalls, the ocean – you’ll see many florals and watery landscapes in my work.

Obviously there is room in the art world for all manner of styles. But I personally think it’s sad to be driven only by what a judge might want to see in any given juried show or only the subject matter a certain gallery insists on. I know artists who dread having to paint a subject or style for those reasons, but of course they do it anyway and almost hate every minute of it! Apparently that is the only path to any success in the art world, but does that make it right for the artists?