As a young artist fresh out of college, I was told by multiple galleries that I needed to “pick a style.” Every time I showed them my portfolio, that’s what they told me. My art had too big a range for them to consider me. They didn’t know how to represent me. Having worked in art galleries since then, I understand their point of view. They need to know that I will continue to produce work in a style that sells for them. The problem with this, though, is that it doesn’t suit my personality as a person or an artist. I have too many ideas that make my brain itch and twitch, and there isn’t one style that can encompass all of them. My hands and my brain get bored repeating a single formula in a variety of ways.
This is not to say that there’s not a benefit to being forced to create series of works that can be grouped together. I have found great reward in creating first the Thanatology series, then the dancers, then the works about dementia, and now the realist work. But I like to dip my toes into other art forms and styles periodically to test the water to see what the next new series will be. I also like having the freedom to revisit past series when a new idea comes along, like when I did a the new dancer painting by letting you all “crowd source” each stage. And when you do several pieces in a certain style, you can start to get followers who look for that particular work.
I was watching So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), and it occurred to me that their all-stars must be, in some ways, like me. The fact that they return to the show means that they enjoy dancing outside of their “own styles.” They like to stretch, literally and figuratively. And each new style, each new dance, each new partner helps grow their abilities and add to their repertoire. And so it is with me. For example, taking watercolors along on my trip down the Danube helped me expand my own artistic vocabulary. I have a feeling I’ll return to them periodically, particularly because there are so many more styles to try within that medium. Branching out and illustrating my friend’s children’s book was a new way to stretch for me, and makes me think that I would actually consider someday illustrating the beautiful stories my grandmother wrote for my dad and uncle.
There are just so many possibilities with art.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by them all, because I want to do everything, make everything. When I see an artist whose work I like, I mentally file the style for use later to express my own ideas. And there just isn’t enough time in the day to work a job, promote the art I’ve already made, and make everything that I want to make. That being said, I’m grateful that I’m living in the technology age, where I’m not dependent upon galleries to represent me in just one style. I can throw everything on my website, SYTYCD style, including the stuff that doesn’t fit neatly into a single body of work. I call that stuff my untamed art. I can promote various styles and subjects through various online venues. But I get bogged down in the tedium of promotion. I just want to create, and I want a fairy godmother who will magically find homes for my creations. Le sigh.