Thursday, October 26, 2006

Be Your Own Rockstar: My Thoughts on the Need for Style Specialization

Have you ever went to a gallery only to find out that half of the various styles of work exhibited were created by a single artist? If so, what did you think? Did you think the artist was good since he or she exhibited skill in various styles of artistic creation? Or did you feel that it would have been better had the artist focused on one style? Is it better to have twenty exhibited pieces that display various styles or twenty that push the limits of a single style? Personally, I find that it is better if an artist exhibits work that share a common connection or style. Thus, I ask the question, "Should artists specialize In a certain style of art?

(Before anyone is insulted by the idea of 'style specialization' I want to make clear that I think it is good for every artist to experiment with different styles. Style experimentation can be the most efficient way to learn different techniques. I'm not suggesting that artists should only create one style of work in their studios. However, I think it is wise to exhibit only one style of work as far as a career in art is concerned. Especially if the artist is seeking recognition for his or her work.)

It has been said that much can be learned from history. I think 'style specialization' is a perfect example of this. For example, open up any art history book and you will probably recognize a painting by Vincent Van Gogh without bothering to look at the name under the image. The same goes for Picasso, Dali, and many MANY others. You know the styles. Thus, you know the artists.

It seems that many famous artists focused on one style even though they tried various ways to express themselves visually throughout their careers. Others tried many forms of self-expression, but are famous for one period of consistent work (Normally created in their early years as artists.). In my opinion, history holds the facts. The fact for artists (in my opinion) is that it is better to specialize on one style as far as exhibiting is concerned.

Think of it this way... the images an artist creates is often seen as a representation of who the artist is. Thus, it is important to find a unique style of expressing yourself and to stick with it. You will stand a better chance of gaining recognition for who you are and what you do. After all, if an artist creates several styles of work the viewing public may find it hard to form a connection with the images and the artist who has created them. This is why the artist seeking recognition must strive to form a connection with those who observe his or her art. The best way to accomplish this is style specialization.

I think about rock bands when I ponder the need for 'style specialization'. Would you enjoy listening to a cd if every other track sounded totally different from the next? Would you go to see the band perform live? I will assume that most people would say "no". After all, who wants to become a fan of a band that is not consistent?

The variety of music may come off as an inability to form a connection from one song to the next. It may also be seen as a lack of talent or authenticity. Do you see many people lining up to watch a garage band performing cover-songs? In the same light, I don't see that many people rushing to an art exhibit to view the work of an artist who does not utilize 'style specialization'.

The most popular bands have had a certain 'sound'. As a painter, I think there is much to learn from that. This is why I think artists should strive to create a certain 'look' with the art they exhibit. A 'look' that people will recognize even if their name is not upon the piece. This does not mean that the art has to be beautiful or ugly. It just has to be you. It has to be a representation of who you are and what you believe in. By conveying that visually (and exhibiting what you create) you will be one step further than artists who are still working with a 'garage band' mentality.

True, there are bands that become 'tired' after so many years of performing and releasing albums. More often than not, they find something that works and abuse it to the point that their music mirrors everything that they have done before. Only the most die-hard fans will take delight in listening to that sort of noise! The same goes for visual artists. One must be wary not to repeat him or herself.

Focusing on 'style specialization' does not mean that an artist should be locked within a comfort zone. One should strive to expand his or her style specialization (this is where the studio experimentation with other styles comes into play.) so as to not become stagnate.

Keep in mind that working with a certain style should not be like sitting in a cell. Just like the best musical groups a visual artist should work with his or her style in order to advance it in new directions and to reach anyone who is willing to 'listen'. The visual artist must bust through the bars! Remember, creative expression imprisoned is no expression at all... be consistent with what you exhibit, find your 'style specialization', and become a visual rockstar!

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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