Historically, everyone painted basically the same*. You’d apprentice under a master and learn how to paint exactly like them. Maybe you’re painting Napoleon on a horse while your teacher paints Napoleon at court. By painting like your teacher, you were paying homage to him. Finding your own style didn’t get you very far.
Now, however, with copyright and illustration careers, style is ground on which we stake claim. With a moral compass. And guns. And lawyers. Sometimes when we are working to find our own style, we pass by others plots. It’s the worst when we don’t realize it. When we happen upon something we think is ours only to be told by the angry internet that it is not.
But sometimes we pass by closely and know that we have entered others territory. Then a choice must be made. Camp here. Live here. Plant crops and a career here.
A few year back, I watched the Creative Catalyst DVD of Anne Baldwin’s workshop. I followed her approach to the letter and at the end had a piece that while no one would mistake for hers, was too close for my comfort. Luckily I knew it wasn’t my approach and I was new enough to art that my own way of doing things couldn’t help but come into play.
I’ve always loved contour drawing. No one alive today invented contour. It’s a common way to approach drawing. Yet, there are several artists whose work I greatly admire who use contour as their signature style. There have been a few days this past week where I know my work has veered too closely to theirs. And I’m OK with that. I know that I’m not copying and I know that this isn’t where I want to stay. But you have to pass by to pass through. So I will allow myself to stay in this land for awhile. To explore color and shape here. I will remind myself that it’s not where I want to stay. To look west (or east or north or south) and keep exploring new lands to find a place that I can call truly my own.
*This is an extreme oversimplification of a time in art history.