The kinds of comments I get in the gallery are; ‘I would never of dreamt that work was by the same artist’. Some say that an artist needs one special style so that the public is not confused and that your work is immediately recognisable as a painting done by you alone. I suppose this is about the artist finding their individual style, but what if an artist just wants to keep up the intellectual challenge of trying out many different methods to get to where they want to be heading? I mean a lot of good work can come from these endeavours, it is just that the pictures are made in differing ways. For instance, this is a painting I was working on in the early part of the year:
The dramatic power of the sea and its effects on the landscape at Covehithe in Suffolk has been an inspiration for me. Many people go there to chill out and take their dogs for a walk as it is a wild stretch of Suffolk coastline where the woodlands, marshlands and an inland lake meet the sea. It is near Dunwich which was once an important and thriving port until it fell into the sea in the 1300’s and the stories tell of the church bells of that can still be heard ringing out from far below the sea bed. Anyway, suffice it to say I find this an inspiring place as do many other artists, writers, poets, musicians and creatives. So this has been my starting point and the work is quite a realistic view looking across the sand and out to sea through the grasses on the sand dunes. I painted a few of these with this colour scheme in ochre and greys. I was reasonably happy with the painting but wanted to take the theme further, to try out other materials and to try a different format.
I went onto paint a series of smaller (20 x 15cm) more inventive works on canvas. The earlier paintings were in a square format which is normally reserved for abstract work, the new work was painted in a traditional landscape but were of a semi abstract nature. The colour scheme changed from the lighter ochre and greys and to a far deeper, richer, warmer palette.
The method of painting started out differently. Instead of starting with a smooth wooden panel, I added a deep layer of white oil paint onto canvas. I even wanted to test various whites; Michael Harding’s Lead White, Mussini’s Titanium White and a mixing white. These needed a few weeks to dry before they were ready for the next step. In the end I decided that I preferred the Michael Harding but there wasn’t that much difference in the final results. Anyway, I went onto apply a scumble of Naples Yellow, which turned into a far deeper colour when shellac was applied on top by allowing and guiding the shellac to run along the painted layer. I believe I also used a small amount of turquoise – a favourite of mine- and a burnt umber for the deep rich tone. I was very happy with these works which I went onto title Dune Studies I to V.
I think you can already see my dilemma as my work had changed dramatically even though I had been working on the same theme.
My work went onto develop still further when I decided to paint on a larger canvas (40 x 30cm) and to bring back the views of the cliffs and I also wanted to keep a very contemporary vision in mind and so another series began.
This time I applied a generous gesso to the canvas and mixed layers of Indian Ink, Asphalt, Shellac, Gesso, Crackle Glaze and Oil Paint to bring out my composition.
So here am I with three types of paintings worked from one theme. What to do? How am I not to confuse my public? This is a bit of a dilemma for me. I know I need to change and develop my work and ideas. So far the main answer I can come up with is to present my work in series and on my website to group paintings in galleries. That way I can group work together in an exhibition to give it some cohesion. I suppose I can see that I like to start in a realistic style and develop my ideas into an abstracted form. Maybe one day I will find a style and way of working that I can happily settle into but until then…
Thank you for reading my post. If you have any answers to my dilemma please let me know. Any questions ask away.
Patricia Colyer, March 2016
My work can be seen at my webpage www.patriciacolyer.co.uk
Artists: Are you Consistent? A Gallery Owner’s Perspective