Autumn is here. There has been a noticeable change in temperature over the past few days, but the sun continues to shine and there are some remarkable sunsets to cheer us all up.
This Friday, in my Art of the Landscape class at The Letchworth settlement, I will be taking the students through the painting of a sunset scene inspired by the work of Claude Lorrain, the French Baroque painter. It may seem a tall order to complete in 2 hours, but it’s all about the preparation…and simplification!
I’m always amazed, wherever I see work at group exhibitions or critique evenings, to see the variety of styles and techniques on display. You can often pick out some threads of homage to more well- known artists, or an obsessive commitment to a genre. As a professional artist, it’s good to develop your ‘signature style’, one that is uniquely you and unmistakable, should anyone wish to pick you out in the vast art market place. Often, this is what we are told is required for any buyer, or agent, to invest in our work.
Truth is, though, that the greatest artists of any age have changed their style constantly – developing and adapting to produce something new, to stay ahead of the crowd, to stay relevant, or dare I say it, fashionable?!
Whilst it is nice to steadily plod on and stay within your own comfort zone, it is sometimes good to peer over the fence and try something different. That's why, in my Friday Landscape Class, I take a class my aim is to tackle a variety of landscape scenarios – seascapes, townscapes, trees, mountains, lakes, etc. However, I try and mix it up, with each work produced in a different medium every week. Acrylic, watercolour, pastel – each poses a different challenge and begins to push students who only like to stick with their favourite.
I also introduce an element of art history, and every couple of weeks, we attempt to produce a work which either mimics the style of a famous artist (with a local scene) or copies a painting faithfully but using an alternative medium. For two hours you are transported into that artist’s mind using shapes and methods of application perhaps entirely alien to your usual hand. It can be exciting, sometimes annoying, often surprisingly difficult but ultimately rewarding. Students throughout history have copied the Old Masters to learn technique, it isn’t something new. In my version, I don’t just stick to the classics though – any style, any ‘ism’ is up for grabs, so long as it can be broken down and painted in about 2 hours.
So, I urge you to have a go! Pick a van Gogh, or a Monet, or an O’Keefe. Grab your paints or pastels, have a think about how they may have produced their painting -and try it out. It may or may not work – but at least you might learn something along the way. It might loosen you up, give you an idea, or just make you appreciate the artist and their talent more. It will certainly give your brain a holiday, free you up from your own style and I guarantee, you’ll enjoy it!