Stylistic Unity

Two years ago I had my work critiqued through Oil Painters of America.  Todd Williams was the  Signature Member who looked at images of ten of my current paintings.  He gave me some very helpful insight into my work and useful  suggestions.  One particular idea he proposed to me was very surprising and has resulted in unexpected changes in the direction of my work.

Miller's Bend,  oil on canvas, 60 by 90inches,  © 2009 Laura Lewis

Miller’s Bend,  oil on canvas, 60 by 90inches,  © 2009 Laura Lewis

This is the painting he was discussing.  He said something like this: “I notice that you have stylized the clay in the riverbed at the foreground, but you have not stylized the bluffs or sky in the same way.  So I am suggesting that you consider the idea of whether you would wish to have stylistic unity in your painting.”

 

I had never heard anyone talk about stylistic unity, nor had I considered such an idea when making this painting.  I knew that somewhere in this suggestion was a powerful catalyst for change in my work.  I could not accept the idea of stylizing this entire image in the same way that the clay was treated.  So I did not really know where to go with it.  But what became clear to me was that the patterned  clay was a big part of the reason that I keep returning to this part of the Brazos River for imagery.  So in some of my next paintings I gave pattern a stronger voice in my work.

Tractor Tracks, oil on panel, 18 by 36 inches,  © 2011 Laura Lewis

Tractor Tracks, oil on panel, 18 by 36 inches,  © 2011 Laura Lewis

Shadow Tracks, oil on panel,  32 by 14 inches,  © 2011 Laura Lewis

Shadow Tracks, oil on panel,  32 by 14 inches,  © 2011 Laura Lewis

Winter Wheat, oil on panel, 34 by 24 inches,  © 2012 Laura Lewis

Winter Wheat, oil on panel, 34 by 24 inches,  © 2012 Laura Lewis

Turnrow,  oil on panel, 32 by 45 inches,  © 2012 Laura Lewis

Turnrow,  oil on panel, 32 by 45 inches,  © 2012 Laura Lewis

 
Then I did get back to painting the Brazos again, and here is the evidence of the power of this idea.

Brazos Clay,  oil on panel,  32 by 34 inches,  © 2012 Laura Lewis

Brazos Clay,  oil on panel,  32 by 34 inches,  © 2012 Laura Lewis

So here I am back at the Brazos River. This painting has more stylistic unity than Miller’s Bend. I am happy with the painting. The water is mostly realistic and I have had more fun with the patterns on the right. The concept of stylistic unity is still driving change in my work and is a challenge I am enjoying wrestling with.

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