On Sunday evening, my husband and I went to a concert with very close friends. We went to hear Herbie Hancock perform. I was excited because I enjoy jazz immensely and I wanted to hear this legend. The crowd seemed as thrilled as I was. Sadly, Hancock’s performance included work that we recognized, but it was changed to the point where we could only pick out a few notes of the beloved songs sprinkled into long sets of jamming riffs. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy musical riffs. I was just disheartened that I didn’t get to hear the songs that I know and love the way that I know and love them.
Artists take a risk when they change their work. They risk loosing the audience that has come to appreciate their art. However, if artists don’t change, then they don’t grow. It is a tough trek across a precarious balance beam.
Last week, some lovely visitors to my studio asked me a question during the course of their visit that has had me thinking. They asked, “Has your work changed?” They have not known me, or my work, a long time, so I wasn’t sure exactly why they had posed the query. To better understand them, I initially answered the question with a question of my own. This led to my discovery that they had purchased a piece by an artist whose work and style has changed dramatically. I answered as best I could on the fly. As usually occurs, why is this so?, I thought about a more thorough answer twenty-four hours later.
Of course my work has changed over the years. I think that the changes most recently may be almost imperceptible by all but the keenest eyes. I feel a change in my work as a direct result of my trip to France, but I don’t think that others can see it. However, if one looks at my early work and then at the art I am producing now, there is a marked difference. First of all, when I first started working in pastel, I used Canson Mi- Teintes paper. Many years ago, this was the paper that was available for pastel use. As time progressed, I became fatigued with using the same surface and began my search for a different approach. This led me to several commercial papers and finally, to preparing my own surface.
Secondly, when I first began seriously committing to making art, I had considered portraiture. This seemed like a perfect fit for my personality since I am, most decidedly, a “people” person. I worked from the model for years, doing figures and portraits. The clarion call to landscape didn’t occur until I was attending a Daniel Greene workshop. I have rarely experienced the clarity that I did on the long drive home from that workshop. I most certainly didn’t want to paint portraits and I didn’t want to paint in a photo-realistic style, but what did I want? Upon my return to the studio, I pulled out several art books. Looking through the pages, I marked the images that moved me emotionally and then reviewed my preferences. I realized that a more intuitive, emotional response was what I wanted to elicit in viewers, and I began working toward more expressive art.
So, in answer to my visitor’s question, my work has changed from a more photo-realistic approach to a more expressive one. I am much more concerned with a strong composition and a more simplified approach than I was when I first began painting. Early in my painting experience, I wanted to learn techniques that would enable me to express myself clearly in my work. Now, I can work without concern over the technical qualities of my medium of choice. That said, I am itching to experiment some more, so a change is sure to come.