One style or many styles

This recent drawing (that may become a painting.) really interests me. What does it mean? It just appeared out of my subconscious.

Is it okay to be prolific across lots of different styles of art, or do you need to have one pronounced style to be considered a real artist and taken seriously?

Recently I went to see a friend’s exhibition called The Big Swim at a new gallery that has re-opened in Courtenay Place, Wellington: Hamish Coleman paints images from movie stills, close ups of faces or parts of bodies. He shares the gallery space with Emily Hartley-Skudder who paints miniatures of found-objects which are both fantasy and hyper real. Like many younger artists, both Hamish and Emily have a definite style and they are firmly established as serious, professional artists.

But art is so subjective, so personal. What one person likes in art, another will scoff at. We all have our individual tastes and often make quick instinctive judgements when viewing artworks – “I like that one”. If asked why, we usually don’t know, we just do. The average punter usually wants art that is recognisable and understandable because it is safe and familiar and easier to “read”. On the other hand, an abstract painting can be a bit puzzling or scary. What’s it mean? And even elicit remarks like “I could do that” or “that’s not art”.

When I consider all my artworks, I wonder if I have a defined style. I paint abstracts, landscapes and pictures that tell stories. I chop and change directions. What I paint on any one day depends on my mood. I go to my studio and I think what do I feel like doing today?  Shall I finish a painting, start something new, work in acrylics or oils, do something realistic or abstract?  Even with a plan, paintings have a way of taking over. Once you are in the zone and absorbed, you don’t notice that they are directing you. Then you step back and look and think wow how did that happen, where the hell did that image come from?

As an artist, I am learning to take more risks. That means trying something new that might ruin the work you have just done, painting over things again and again and looking back to earlier versions to understand where you went wrong, what works and what doesn’t. I am on a journey and I don’t know my destination. I still have so much to learn, and so many paintings to make.

I think I do have several styles and that’s okay. What do you think?