I had the incredible privilege this past weekend of receiving some critique and advice on my artwork from the amazing artists Dan dos Santos and Howard Lyon when I met them at Jordan Con. One of the biggest things they said was that I need to find my style or my artistic language: I’ve been exploring various media and styles, and as a result my art looks like the work of several different artists. They advised me to find the style that appeals to me most powerfully and pursue it with more rigour and focus.
So I’ve decided to sit down and look at some of my favorite paintings in hopes of pinning down what specific aspects I admire and want to emulate. I’ll start with a few examples of Dan and Howard’s work that I particularly like.
These are all realistic portraits with less realistic poses. I find Vev and the Dragon Empress especially appealing in this regard. Neither is making a natural gesture: both are clearly posed, but in very meaningful ways. I love the iconographic look of the Vev image, with her symbolic objects in her hands, while the Dragon Empress is using exaggerated body language to reveal character.
I’m also strongly drawn to the contrast of darkness with bright, saturated colours. The blue glow and red hair in the Angel of Finality, the yellow framing Jesus in From Fear to Faith, and the light shining through the Dragon Empress’ ears keep catching my eye. The chiaroscuro in Shiva’s Crown is a very different effect, but equally striking. I also love the contrast formed not only by the black and white/prismatic parts of Lightweaver, but also by the realistic and abstract/geometric parts. This is my favourite of the six images above, and I think it’s because it mixes very realistic and very minimalistic styles.
I also find that I prefer the extremely simple (or, in the case of Shiva’s Crown, nonexistent) backgrounds in Dan dos Santos’ pieces, and of the backgrounds in Howard’s pieces, my favorite is the relatively simple and very geometric pillars and window around Vev.
Here are a handful of others pictures that have caught my attention over the past few years.
Again, it seems I’ve been drawn to realistic portraits with dramatised, character-revealing poses. A lot of these are very dark with bright splashes of color, and several have either minimal or abstracted backgrounds. I’ve always loved Caravaggio’s use of light and color; I’ve also always enjoyed the deliberate and symbolic poses in medieval iconography.
Finally, here are a few of my own pictures that other people have selected as my best work. The first one is several years old and has its share of issues, but people continue to tell me it’s one of my more striking pieces. The others are recent, and the third one, Dan dos Santos and Howard Lyon both pointed out as being far better than anything else in my display at Jordan Con.
And what do you know, all of these are portraits, the middle one with a very dramatic pose, all of them are mainly dark with bright contrasting colors or lighting, and all of them have simple backgrounds. Incidentally, all three of these are also digital paintings. I spend so much time playing with different media, styles, and colors, but I think it’s time to focus a little more closely on the stylistic aspects that both appeal to me in other people’s art and seem most successful in my own art. I’m going to start working on a series of images, some digital and some in traditional media, that specifically incorporate these stylistic aspects I’ve identified. Hopefully, I’ll end up more clearly identifying and beginning to refine my distinct art style.