Arts, Farts & Applecarts - Blog #5 - Artistic Consistency

Blog #5  - Artistic Consistency

I’ve noticed that mature artists tend to have a consistency to their work. And because of that consistency, they are able to attract and keep a clientele that is attracted to that look. It’s a good thing and it helps an artist make a living at his or her craft. But, what defines an artist’s work? What are the elements that make it apparent that a particular work is obviously from a certain artist?

Medium is one element. Some artists stick to one major medium where their best work is found. They may dabble in other media, but most artists become defined as either an oil painter, or a watercolor artist, or a graphic artist, or as an artist who works in any one of hundreds of different media. They become masters of that medium and the work they produce has on expertise that helps define them. I am a digital artist. The computer is my medium. That is one of the elements that defines my work.

Style is another element that can be loosely defined by the school of art an artist’s work falls in to. Some artists fall into the impressionist camp, some are realists, some are abstract expressionists. There are lots of different styles that can loosely define an artist’s work. I am a surrealist. The paintings I do are not necessarily of this world. They come from my imagination. Surrealism is another one of the elements that defines my work.

Subject matter is a third element that adds to an artist’s consistent vision. Some artists paint landscapes and they become very good at it. Others paint portraits, or flowers, or animals, or houses. There are thousands of different subjects to choose from that can sometimes border on an obsession. But it’s the Artists’s primary subject that helps to define him or her. My subject matter is environmental. I paint pictures about global warming, endangered species and population issues. My environmental subject matter helps to define my work.     

Over the years I have developed a level of comfort with my medium (digital) that lets me create my artwork without even thinking about the mechanics. I think it is the same for artists working in other media as well. Working digitally can be terribly confusing and frustrating… especially for the beginner. The programs us digital artists use are complex and offer a depth of possibilities that is downright daunting. For example, I’ll bet there isn’t a single person in the world that fully grasps every feature of Photoshop… arguably the most complex program used by digital artists. 

It may come as a surprise to some of my patrons that I am not a computer nerd. A computer nerd will embrace the complexity and revel in the discovery of new and exciting possibilities. I shudder at the thought of a new version of my software. I depend on my wife, Marcia, and my two smart daughters, Hannah and Hillary, to help me understand how to use new features. Recently I was forced to buy a new iMac for my work because my trusty 12-year old iMac was dying. Another thing that might surprise you: my 12-year old iMac was using a version of Photoshop that was even older. It must have been 15 years old! But, it fit me like a glove. I could whizz through one of my multi-layered visual montages without thinking of the mechanics, but focusing on the subject alone. When it came time to paint the picture, I used an equally old version of ArtRage, my painting program. 

So, my old iMac bit the dust. My new iMac (which, incidentally, looked exactly like my old one), ran on a more advanced operating system. And that operating system would not allow me to use my trusty old version of Photoshop. I had to update Photoshop. Now, Photoshop is an Adobe product, and only available with a subscription these days, so, besides having to learn a new version, I also have to pay a monthly subscription charge for the privilege of using it. (I have a love/hate relationship with computers!) The new version of Photoshop gave me some fits to start, but I eventually eased into the new interface. It took me a while, but now I’m working comfortably with Photoshop once again.

I think all media is like that. Once you learn your medium, it becomes instinctual… automatic. You’re not fussing over the mechanics, you’re focusing on the creative process. That comfort level comes from that trusty brush that has become your favorite, or the palette of colors that you like the most, or the pen that has given you just the right thickness of line. You become good at that medium and the work you do reflects that expertise.

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  • Ken Houtman on

    Ya, the subscriptions are a big turn off. PS is so darn good, there are imitations that are close, but, they take forever to get used to. Do you just do art on the Mac and not other computer stuff? Keeping the Mac offline may help it last longer. By the way, I think the IBM computers do PS as well as macs nowdays (maybe better.) They are more popular and are “catered to” more than macs.

    I like your blogs, and always look forward to it.

  • Hillary on

    Every time I paint I feel like I’m learning something new about oil paints, colors, or brushes. Then again every time I paint I have more questions too!

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