Over the holidays, one of my sister-in-laws took on the challenge of painting with watercolor, and she did very well. Hopefully, she now has her painting hanging in her office in Colorado.

This first painting shows the little demo I did to help her get started, and it's quite small, maybe 5x7." The second painting is also mine, painted more than a dozen years ago and is about 28x40." Both were painted without any visual references, but what a difference there is in the two.
The paintings were done years apart.
They are vastly different in size.
Each was painted for a totally different purpose.
The smaller one took less than 20 minutes to create.
The larger one took over 20 hours.
Different color choices are evident - lots of Indanthrone in the smaller one and too much French Ultramarine in the big one.
The looser style of painting contrasts sharply with the tight, controlled look.
The smaller painting, even though it's fairly simple, shows a brush which has had more experience.

It's not in me anymore to create a painting like the big sycamore and creek. But if I did paint it now, it would be simplified, quieter, less grassy stuff and fewer branches, with more emphasis on what was important to say, etc. If it were painted again, it would have a totally different outcome.

Here's the biggest difference. The sycamore painting was about accurate recording of all the THINGS shown in the painting, while the quick study painting was about paint application, value differences, and shape making. Recording things on paper just doesn't interest me as much anymore. Hope that makes sense.

We talked in classes this week about developing our own style of painting. Although there's a vast difference in time, size, colors, style, etc, of these two paintings, is it likely that the same artist painted both of them?

Compare painting styles to handwriting. Each of us has a distinct signature that we sign our name with. My stance is that each artist also has a distinct style within that naturally shows up in every painting. The longer we paint, the more obvious the style is. We don't have to develop it because it's already there, ready to show up when we learn how to paint.

That unique style can be camouflaged at times, like when a student artist is learning the style of a particular artist or trying new techniques. But even then, the way the brush hits the paper is different for everyone, and that unique 'painting' signature is evident.

One last comment - - - the big sycamore was painted as a graduation gift for our son, who requested a painting of a creek, snow and sycamore. He likes realism so that was the big focus when it was painted. At least that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it! Have a great weekend.


Julie Broom said...

Hi Sandy, loving your blog which I subscribed to recently. This was a really interesting post. I've begun to notice a change in my own style over the last year which is similar to what you mention. Capturing every detail in vivid detail no longer holds the same thrill for me and my work has become a lot looser too. It's good to know I've not just become lazy and that other artists experience a similar shift!

Christiane Kingsley said...

Sandy, I really appreciated your comments about personal style. Recently, I was asking myself if I was confusing technique with personal style, if my personal style was coming through even though I was trying various different painting techniques.

Chris Beck said...

Both paintings are beautiful, tho in very different ways! Love the intricacy of the older tree/landscape and the simplicity of the new one!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sandy,
I like your thought provoking post. I think there is a personal style that remains as one evolves as an artist. And, I wonder if as you evolve, you naturally shed ways that you've outgrown or don't need at the time.
Thank you!

Barbara Sailor said...

One of the most difficult aspects of being a painter is getting over the idea that one has to record instead of interpret - I am still fighting that need to realistically depict the world. You, Sandy, have conquered that need. Your work is beautiful.

Anonymous said...


I think there is a "style/or fingerprint if you will" that is there in each artist, it takes some time to notice that fingerprint when it is wrapped in the tight realism of the one painting compared to the more fluid,looser style of the other, but I imagine they could show a similar hand a little more confident (Is that even possible?)style.

The one thing I've found that with my recent abstract paintings I've been working thru and just painting with no concerns, I've noticed a style that happens in my work that is there in all of it no matter the subject or lack of subject matter just a something that happens, my style. I hope that helps prove your theory.

Style is always there, just not noticed by the artist because I believe when we are starting out we have a vision of painting like a certain artist and if it does not look like that artist we think we have failed and therefore think what we have done gets put in the that sucks pile of art, when in reality its just are own style forcing it's way onto and into the painting.

Thanks Sandy for getting my brain engaged with a thought provoking theory.


Suzanne McDermott said...

Sandy... Yes, you make perfect sense. We share core approach in teaching, too. My teaching style is to immediately point out each student's style and to help the recognize and develop that. I hope we can sit down one day to paint and chat together.

I love the quick study you made for your sister and that you put it up against your earlier work. One thing I love about making artwork is that, over years, you can track such tremendous growth through the work.

Thank you for your kind comments on my post. I have had you in my follow feed all along but, for some unknown reason, your posts do not show up in my feed. I'm explaining this to let you know that, had your posts been popping up as they came along, I'd have been commenting all along.

Well, you know I love you and your work. I'll be in touch soon. XO

Ginny Stiles said...

It is very evident in the thoughtful and LONG comments above that you have a following of artists that learn so much from you. And appreciate you.

One of the joys of your blog is that often you stop to reflect and that you share some of these reflections with your cyber friends online.

I do understand about developing individual style and about you getting away from detailed rendering and that for you this has been exhilarating and liberating. You have moved into something that has more meaning for you.

For others, getting lost in the details is a delight and a life's work. Different strokes for different folks. If I were to buy one of those two paintings...it would be your son's wonderful tree. Both paintings show your style...your sense of color and design. But I am lost in journey along the cold creek.

Sandy Maudlin said...

Developing personal style is always intriguing to artists, as these comments reveal. Thank you so much for adding to the conversation, each of you.

I find that subject and technique don't dictate that personal style. Rather, it's the insides of each of us flowing out as we put paint on the paper that makes each of our styles unique.

Some days realistic detail is vital for me to paint. Some days I prefer chaos first, then exploring to find control.

No matter WHAT is painted or HOW it's painted, once that hurdle is jumped of actually realizing that we are really painting shapes and edges and textures and colors and values, instead of tree branches or wine bottles, then our personal style can become even more obvious.

Right now I'm struggling with a painting that was intially planned to be less realistic than it is. Should I continue it along the path it's going? I think I have to. Maybe later I can approach it the way I first hoped it would go. Happy painting, everyone.

Cynthia said...

Wonderful and inspiring post Sandy.
I just LOVE your work and you motivate me to paint everyday. I cannot thank you enough :)

Cynthia said...

Me again, forgot to ask you if you have ever done or will be doing a book with your tape technique included? hint,hint, it would be a bestseller at Amazon :)
Have you ever done a book with BLURB just getting a hundred and some of your pieces in print in one publication...I would sit and drool the whole day long not getting any work done but it would be a REAL beauty for us all who love your work. Please consider it or if you have one could you please let me know where I can get a copy!!!

Sandy Maudlin said...

Thanks for your comments. You make me grin. My hubby has been pressuring me to write a book...but I'm still thinking about it. Any suggestions about what it should be about? I know there are lots of topics/techniques/approaches and he says to write 5 books. All I really want to do is paint and teach, though. Yet, writing would be a form of teaching. Thanks for the encouragement.

meera said...

Record or interpret-- you do them all well and its a joy to see your paintings and read your comments!

Barbara Sailor said...

Yes - a book would be great!

Cynthia said...

Hi Sandy,,,well I know one of your books should be about how you work and show step-by-steps of some of your techniques and then you could use it in your classes as well as satisfy your "fans" who live way too far away to ever take a class from you. Then you could do your basic "drool" book where you just give us our fix of inspiration that can sit on all our coffee tables so our visitors could drool too. So that is two already...what is your husbands phone number,,,I will call him and tell him to keep "nagging" you to JUST DO IT!!!! pleeeeease!!!! :)