Painting Technique: Defining Your Style


Accomplished artists have a distinct "style" about their work. At the Chicago Pastel Painters Biennial National Juried Exhibition, my award-winning painting "Ski Tracks" was described as having "simultaneous strength and delicacy," per Ellen Eagle, this year's judge. That got me thinking: how about a "Mission Statement" of style? I liked Ellen's description of Ski Tracks, so I included her statement as part of my mission statement.

So here's my "style," or at least the style I strive to achieve on a consistent basis.

Each landscape painting I create will strive to exude the following features:

  1. Breathtaking. There needs to be a "wow" factor about the work of art..

  2. A painting will not be a replica of a scene that was captured by a photograph. Paintings will not be postcards.

  3. Display simultaneous strength and delicacy, predominantly conveyed by a sharp and bold foreground, and a faint and muted distance.

  4. Vibrant color; embracing the pure color of pastel.

  5. Awesome lighting and atmospheric impacts.

  6. Simple composition with complex nuances. Compositional elements expressed not only in the subject masses, but also in the ground, water, sky and foliage. This style element teases the viewer's "eye behavior" and kidnaps attention to be drawn into the scene.

  7. Subject matter is not cliche. I try not to paint too many barns!

  8. The painting must evoke a feeling (i.e. a shiver, squint, gasp).

  9. Scene shows motion.

  10. Large format painting. Despite the predominance of pastel paintings in the smaller (6,8,10 inch) size, I like the large format works (21x27 inches is my favorite, composed on Uart sanded paper).

The cool thing about having a style mission statement is that you can check your work against the statement to ensure it is consistent with what you say you are all about! It provides a checklist, in addition to the usual technical list I keep to track progress of the basics of value, composition and color.

My current project is this scene from the upper peninsula of Michigan on Lake Huron. It was a blustery day in late November, snow squalls emerged unannounced as we traveled along Highway 134 in the early afternoon.


My next step is to work more detail and sharpness in the foreground rocks. while leaving the outskirts of the foreground less-defined and darker. This approach obeys Item#3 in my style mission statement),

I will continue to refine this painting, referring to my mission statement list as a guide as I strive to reinforce a consistent look and feel to my paintings.

#LakeHuron #Michigan #water