To create freely or to become restrained for life? That is the question, or possibly one could put it the way so many artists and front line entertainers have put it: To be true to yourself or to sell out?
Which will it be? Tom Thomson is known for his loose unorthodox rendering, quick sketch like finished works for which we all deeply love. Lawren Harris is instantly recognized for his abstract structured and heavily layered images. Mark Rothko, one of my most favorite artists, clearly screams out his own name with those iconic big singular coloured squares and rectangles. These artists resisted the temptation to fall on the one that sold fast, the one that got the highest price. They followed their hearts every step of the way and became the ironically respected giants that they are because of it.
Let's divert a little for a moment, let us consider the early development of an artists methods. In music as well as painting or any creative field, we all have our hero's. As a drummer growing up in the sixties and seventies and I was most influenced by my favorite drummers, Neil Peart of Rush and, of course, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. For certain I wanted to be just like either one of those giants. I even set my drums up just like them. Grew my hair long like them, and my fills and licks definitely would tell you who were my idols.
As I matured in drumming I gradually moved away from those images and my very own style and look began to emerge. To this day I still employ certain Peart and Bonham methods in my playing but I know that I have moved significantly in my own direction.
In my view this is how artists should evolve. We all bring different influences into what we do in our current work, and it's all of those influences that shape us and make us unique in our own respect. As we develop over time our own methods evolve and we become known for what we do. All of those influences make the cake taste the way it does.
If you are a Canadian landscape painter, as I am, you are inevitably going to have people say to you how much your work is like the Group Of Seven. I always have an internal chuckle over that one. Truthfully I have to thank each one for that very high compliment, Theres no way I come even close to any one of those masters! I realize it is just the easiest way for people to say they really like your work. We all grew up studying Group of Seven paintings, we went on class trips to the Art Gallery of Ontario, The McMichael Collection, etc, etc, and we all know the groups work so well. They were most certainly pioneers and masters of the genre and I kiss the ground they walked on. Greatest possible respect for certain. When I began painting in oils I most definitely employed those characteristics.
Even before I had any idea who the Group of Seven were I had a hero in my very own family. My late uncle Jack Reid. His watercolours were my first and greatest influence by far.
Here we are so may years later. I like to say my work is a conglomeration, a recipe list of all of those amazing artists and influences, but I know that I am comfortable in my own skin. I follow my own heart and move in directions that feel right and free for me. There are certain images I have painted that I know I could repeat at nauseum, just because I know they sell quickly. It's a rampant problem out there today. Those artists who do that, in my own opinion, have sold out to a more commercial business model. Sacrificed their own creative gifts and given in to the all mighty sale. The proverbial cash cow. "Wow, that sold fast! I'll do another one, and another one", etc, etc, etc. It's sad, and it's a real indication of insecurity and lack of self confidence. The worst aspect of repetition is that it severely limits an artists natural evolution, exploration of new techniques, methods that might well bring many new rewards to an artists career.
There's always always something new and fresh in the world to paint. There is always some new story to tell. Our souls are made for it, to breath it in, absorb it, and artists are made to paint it.
Be brave, be bold! Let your brush live and breath. Allow your work to ebb and flow in whatever direction it chooses. Celebrate creativity, give way to freedom, create as your soul desires!
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The Artists Journey
This is my blog page and it is where I get to be the opinionated man that I really am. The views are my own.
I invite your replies and comments, on my virtual welcome mat.
This sketch above became this finished painting below
The Pine Tree Painter.
How did I become known as the Pine Tree Painter? You could say I paint a lot of Pine Trees, that would be true. I paint a lot of other things too, but Pine Trees, Spruce Trees, Birch and others seem to be a continuous string in what i do. I just like the way they stand there like a custodian of the land. or a greeter to nature. So, I continue down the path with the Pine Tree Painter name on my head, It's ok.