The Roots of Style and Substance

I recently began a painting [above: Detail of some of the first brushstrokes] from a quick sketch in the hope of developing a sort of synthesis out of the controlled calm of Lilies and the geometrical wildness of View of Five Points I. This is a common stylistic goal of mine-- to merge and heighten interesting elements of two previous paintings to form the next painting (provided the resulting style is properly suited to the subject at hand). Because this somewhat Hegelian endeavor is the method by which I often develop my technique, compositions, and designs, I begin to notice certain recurring patterns in the general progression of my work and wonder whether artistic development, much like the seasons, is more cyclical than linear. I have heard the expression "returning to one's roots" many times in relation to art, music, and literature, and have generally dismissed it as being far too tied to the idea that one's first work is somehow more original or true-to-oneself than one's subsequent creations, but if one considers predominant traits rather than time-of-production, the expression may be more useful. Roots grow and develop over time, after all, but remain roots-- foundations sometimes settle, sometimes expand, making them constant but not necessarily static.

While the roots of the sorts of scenes I find inspirational are too widespread to define in a few paragraphs-- one may reach toward a stream, another may break through to the surface of the soil, another may be trying to push past a rock, another still may be circling to the core of something-- my depictions consistently favor very deliberate strokes that nevertheless seem free and effortless, in fact, it is perhaps this confident deliberation which makes them free and effortless. I like to suggest an almost sub-atomic, abstract organic order in my paintings, and I notice a continuous fluctuation in focus from the general to the particular, the definite to the ethereal. I sometimes have to convince myself to depict something in a more photo-realistic manner as either a way to ensure that my paintings of internal matters are not merely vain flights of fancy or as an invitation to look at something a bit more deeply. Reality is malleable, I believe, and imagination is inspiring, liberating, pleasant; however, I want to be able to express a logically compelling reason for any imaginative vision or change that I put forward. When it comes to the objective aspects of my work, I want to make sure that it inspires thought and encourages the Good, meanwhile, I think about the personal workings of my painting so as to consciously confirm that the artistic paths I tread remain healthy and fulfilling. I like to back up feeling with reason, and when my reason is flawed, I am able to dissolve the feeling that goes along with it. I sometimes have to retrace my meanderings, but hopefully each time I do I am not merely repeating myself, but discovering things I may have missed or refining and strengthening significant aspects of a contemplation for which I thought I had too little time or space on the first time around.

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