Personal = Personality


A painter's style often comes up on the podcasts I listen to and articles I read, and it is just as often squeezed into large categories like “realism” or “impressionism”. I see “American” and “ Contemporary” used quite a bit, also.

In the attempt to really pin it down, to be clear, to be recognizable and easily relatable to others, painters may join a couple of these words together to join themselves to one movement or another.


I just don't understand it.  Style, that is.

I know of one person who made the very deliberate decision to develop his style:

C.W. Mundy.

He has spoken about how he felt that, if he could learn to paint like a turn-of-the-century impressionist, he could market that and do well.

I suppose he's doing alright.

Ryan S. Brown could be mentioned here, also I suppose. But the development of a style or what group I may or may not be in simply does not enter my mind.

I just want to learn to paint. In doing so, I learn to make marks, use certain supports, paint my browns a bit purple, and so on. Whether it is realistic or just an impression is a needless distinction to me. It is both and it is less of either than I'd like. It is growth. It is life.

It seems to me that style comes from motivation more than anything else. Who one studies with is surely to be considered, but in my case, the way I'm building paintings stems less from who I have encountered and more from why I want to paint and how I solve problems. And so I come to the revelation I had this week about style:




That's it. If I am clear about why I want to paint and continue painting, then the way I go about solving problems is my style.  My "why" guides my "how".

Ryan S. Brown wants to paint great feats of human achievement. That's his “why”. How he applies that motivation to problem-solving is his style. He's chosen to draw and apply paint very differently than, say, Egon Schiele. Brown's PERSONAL motivation equals his painting's PERSONALITY.

I don't know why George Inness made paintings, but I do know that spirituality greatly influenced him.  His motivation for the placing of elements where he did and the merging of elements defines his later style.  For me, it defies clear characterization, but is nonetheless very clearly his own.

It is interesting to choose living artists and apply this idea as an exercise – to discover WHY they continue painting and then set that knowledge side by side with their work to see how their “PERSONAL” created their work's “PERSONALITY”.


This dive into a subject that I never consider has given me a bit of clarity on the subject and has lifted a little weight, but my “PERSONAL” will have to wait for another post.  As for my "PERSONALITY", I don't think "Struggling American Ruralist" is a very fitting label to market myself, so I'll just leave the pigeon-holing to the experts and marketing gurus.