I’m never quite sure if my paintings are professional looking, and they never seem to look as though they belong in the same class as those of some other artists whose work I admire. I want my paintings to look as professional as theirs. And it’s not just one artist, but several that I admire – and their styles also differ from one another. What makes them look professional is a quality that I can’t define in words and, although some of my paintings are quite good, I can’t define in words why I feel my paintings don’t look professional. What does “professional” mean, anyway?
I am always searching for technique books and articles by these artists. When I can find them I buy the books or print out the articles. I study their layout, brush strokes, pencil lines. Sometimes they do have a method by which they follow that allows their paintings to look the way they do and if I think that method or technique will help me, I incorporate it. But even then, when my painting is just as clear and sharp, or the washes just as uniform, they still look different. I don’t know if it’s purely psychological or not. I can never know because I have an emotional connection, a special relationship to my painting that can never be broken.
Most of the time however, it’s just their style that I fall in love with, not any special technique. And their style, in the end, is a manifestation of years of painting and eye – hand coordination – and develops according to their own genetics and experience path.
At the same time I know that I am supposed to have my own style of painting – and I guess I do because invariable when I paint I don’t copy another artist’s brush strokes but lay in my own as I feel it. I know that if I try to copy brush strokes my painting is not going to feel right. It’s not going to flow from my brain through my hand onto the paper. It’s OK to study the style of an artist and, in the beginning of a career, try to copy it, but somewhere along the line I settle into my own style based on my own eye - hand coordination, experience, genetics and comfort. No two artist styles are exactly the same. I want mine to look like theirs but also be mine at the same time. It’s confusing. And I’ve noticed that the style of one painting can be different from another even by the same artist. So what am I copying?
Maybe it’s difficult to completely and impartially react to my own painting as I would to an artist I admire because I am personally and emotionally involved in my own. I have invested a great deal of myself in the painting and can’t see it through the eyes of someone who hasn’t painted it – or invested emotion in it. So, it’s impossible for me to judge its professionalism. Again, I’m not even sure what I mean by “professionalism”.
I think the only way I can feel my work is becoming professional or is professional is to have others, both professional painters and collectors, show me they value my work. I haven’t reached that point yet. I’m sure it’s going to take many more years. But, even then, I think I will look at my work in the same way, unable to completely, impartially react to it as if someone else painted it. I wonder if all artists, no matter who they are, see their work the same way.
So, I think all I can do is keep studying the styles and techniques of artists I admire, try to incorporate techniques that will improve my art and let my own special and unique style develop.