Pushing the Boundaries of "Genre"

“You may start out to create a horizontal rectangular work and end up with a vertical work.” – Debora Stewart.

 I’ve recently started enjoying the irony that artists, who constantly strive to push boundaries in style, form, and function, so often end up labeled in stylistic categories that mentally limit and inhibit creativity. Whether it’s a societal or a self-label, strictly calling yourself an “impressionist,” a “realist,” or an “abstract artist” can mentally cut off inspiration and stimulus, as there are truly no limits when it comes to a canvas, a paintbrush, and a creative mind!

 Debora Stewart, in her book Abstract Art Painting: Expressions in Mixed Media, aptly states:

 “In abstraction, you must be open to change and surprise along the way. You must let go of outcomes. You do need to have a plan and direction for what you hope to accomplish, but you also need to be open to changing direction. I like to think of it as ‘getting out of my own way.’” 

I have enjoyed the wonderful opportunity of taking an abstract painting course – a format that I previously had scarcely dabbled in. My work has, in the past, stayed closer to the realm of realism and impressionism, playing more with color and brushstrokes than interpretation and shape. I’ve opened my mind to the freeing concept that “form follows function,” and in my recent pieces, endeavored to invoke feelings and sensations versus recall specific sights and memories. Instead of taking direct inspiration from the exact look of an item, I’ve allowed shapes, lines, whisps, boxes, colors, and the composition of all of the above to invoke the essence of my inspiration. 

 Transitioning to a new stylistic form is absolutely intimidating, but more so mentally than it is in practice. For example, the same basic principles of art apply; value, composition, rule of thirds, and all other standard fundamentals are crucial to creating a dynamic and appealing painting. The primary shift in orienting towards a new form has been my approach to each subject.  I’ve needed to silence the voices prompting me to stick with my comfortable medium and my well-trained approach, and welcome uncertainty. I acknowledge that there are certain abstract paintings I’ve completed that viewers will not immediately know what the source of inspiration was – and that is okay! While they may not know exactly what inspired the work, they hopefully will feel the same way that I do when I look at that item. I love nothing more than being able to expand my artistic “toolbox” and have the option and ability to draw upon different forms when the function demands. Embracing the abstract and welcoming feeling over concrete form has allowed me to expand!

 I challenge you today to disrupt your “status quo” and find a way in your life that you can manipulate “form” for “function.” Do you always walk one direct route to work when your heart is begging you to take a beautiful, scenic route? Do you always take the scenic route when you need to be on time and take the direct path? Give yourself the option to play with both choices, and embrace the different outcomes!

Stay tuned for the release of my abstract collection in early June – I truly can’t wait!