The look


Dear Artist,

It’s a curious subject that’s seldom discussed and surprisingly poorly understood. The idealists and the practical are at odds about it, but it’s really neither good nor bad — it just is.


Synthetic polymer paint on paper
17 7/8 x 23 7/8 inches
(45.4 x 60.8 cm)
by Mark Rothko
MoMA collection

I’m talking about “the look” in popular art. Art is a commodity joined at the hip to an artist’s name. That the name is recognized from the work is both its beauty and its curse.

Here’s one example out of thousands. Mark Rothko’s work is pretty well universally known. Anyone with a smattering of interest or knowledge can pick one out from across a crowded MOMA. Both curators and commoners use words like “soft-edged,” “repetitious,” “simple,” “ethereal,” and “consistent,” to describe Rothko’s work. That’s what people know about Rothko. On the other hand, figurative and exploratory work by him is hardly known and seldom collected. Rothko is not just a painting that looks like what a Rothko should look like, it’s a brand, and like the wealthy woman who needs a Louis Vuitton purse, well-endowed galleries feel the need to have a Mark Rothko.

The condition isn’t limited to the herd-instinct of Public Galleries. That little gallery down highway 101 in Humptulips also plays a role in branding the look. Joe Schmaltz’s landscapes need to look like other Joe Schmaltz landscapes. Your local art-collecting orthodontist needs to have seen something like it before. It takes a mighty evolved orthodontist to seek out the more unusual Schmaltzes. Evolved orthodontists are as rare as perfectly straight teeth.

Whether they admit it or not, both the lofty curator and the modest collector see work as a product and have finite expectations for it. Going beyond those expectations upsets their understanding of the particular brand they’re looking at. So much for an artist’s versatility, varied skills, complex abilities and eternal exploration.

Problems arise when one artist appropriates the look of another artist. If the look is simple to produce, and many looks are, multiple galleries can become glutted. Overproduction of a look leads to devaluation. Such is the circular nature of looks.

Best regards,


PS: “Such laboured nothings in so strange a style,
Amaze th’ unlearn’d, and make the learned smile.” (Alexander Pope)

Esoterica: I’d like to apologize to many of our readers. With the inordinate amount of travelling I’ve been up to this summer, more that three thousand emails asking specific questions have built up. While I’m working at it, some of these may never be answered personally or in the twice-weekly letter. I’m both sorry and honoured. However, the subject of artistic consistency and uniformity of style was a common thread in a lot of the emails I’ve looked at so far. It seems some artists strive for consistency, while others shun it.


Brand recognition matters
by Coulter Watt, Quakertown, PA, USA


“Your Move”
oil painting, 16 x 26 inches
by Coulter Watt

“The Look” is an excellent description of art as commodity and the value of an artist’s style. The consistent style of work is something an established artist must progress from in steps to move forward. Making a radical change upsets the apple cart, the herd mentality of dealers and collectors. If a radical change isn’t loved, the people say the artist has “lost it.” The “it” is what people came to love and purchase — the expected look, the style, the voice. Inconsistent style or unrecognizable look is the hallmark of amateurs who lack command of their skills and/or lack of vision and intellectual content in the conceptual aspect of their work. It’s also the mark of an artist who hasn’t found their style yet and that’s not brandable or bankable. The creative act happens on an easel. Remove a painting from the easel and it becomes a commodity. Framing and placing the work in a gallery places it into the world of business. Yes, art is a business and brand recognition matters.


Room for experimentation
by Karen McLaughlin, Philadelphia, PA, USA


wire sculpture
by Karen McLaughlin

I do agree that well known artists can get stuck into a certain style category. When I went to see a recent Dali show I was blown away by the breadth of his style. I was never a huge fan of his surrealist paintings, perhaps it was overexposure, but I fell in love with his later work. I was also impressed with his technical abilities (another Genn hammer-home philosophy). I remember having a conversation with the artist Susan Howard about that very same thing. She wanted to move forward into new subject matter, but her gallery affiliations only wanted her signature animal paintings as they knew that they would sell. If you think about it, that’s probably a real ego killer, as nobody has any confidence that your new work will sell. On the plus side that leaves plenty of room for experimenting amongst us poor, unknown artists! So go crazy!


Push aesthetic boundaries
by Mark Nordell, Deerwood, MN, USA

I certainly walk into very generic galleries. Yes, I make my little tour about. I see if there is someone in the shop that is engaging and then I leave. Does that make me more evolved than the next person, more aesthetically inclined? I think not. Yes, I too would hope that attorneys, roofers, clergy and people who sell used cars, in other words — everyone — would push at their aesthetic boundaries. However, to consider one more evolved than the next person, leads down a slippery and condescending slope. Or as they said back in the hippy days, “Different strokes for different folks.”


Recognizing style, not subject matter
by Nina Allen Freeman, Tallahassee, FL, USA


“Poppies, Poppies”
watercolor painting
by Nina Allen Freeman

I think there is more than one way to look at this question of the look. I searched for a long time for a look or a subject that could become marketed as prints or cards and uniquely connected with me. I now learn that people who know my work can recognize it any where.

I know artists who win awards consistently with paintings of a certain subject or a certain look. They, of course, are technically very high quality, but their look is known instantly. The drawback is that these artists are expected to forever paint their look and never change if they want to get into exhibitions or sell paintings. I would think this could be boring and stagnant. If you paint all over the spectrum, different subjects and styles, collectors become confused. I think they want to know what to think of you; what you are about, more than technical ability. They want to know what you have to say as an artist. Only I know the answer to this for me; to try to do the best work I can while speaking from my heart.


Resisting recognizable style
by Dyan Law, Pipersville, PA, USA


charcoal drawing
by Dyan Law

What limitless wonderment could we realize if artists had NO recognizable look or style? Soft-edged is hard-edged, repetitious is random, simple is complicated and detailed, ethereal is direct and real, consistent is haphazard or — heaven forbid — a little of everything! Were Picasso, Rothko and Mondrian boring and untalented when they cranked-out their earlier representational, figurative works? Not in my opinion.

Isn’t “recognizable style” for the expectations of the general public, visa vie galleries, a bit over-rated? At the risk of sounding naive, it could be refreshing to find artists who are (or strive to be) just simply excellent at what they do, persistent, dedicated and honest. By producing Art which isn’t sensational, message-bearing, gimmicky, way-cool, violent, or bloody; simply ART for art’s sake!


Marketing drives the interest
by Barney Davey, Scottsdale, AZ, USA

Your take on “The Look” is as usual pithy and on point with a hint of controversy. Controversial to the extent some artists take issue with the notion of their art being commoditized. There is no way of getting around the fact that art-making is a business if the artist seeks to make a living from their creativity. I have current guest blog on Absolute Arts titled, Art vs. Marketing — Making Hazel Dooney Cringe. The major point is that art is about expression. Without an audience, expression is not complete or satisfying. Marketing in its broadest sense drives the interest that completes the expression. As you point out, sometimes successful marketing means creating more of the same despite the desire and ability to do something really different. Some artists I’ve known use different names to sell their much different “looks” to competing galleries and publishers. While this won’t work for every artist, it is one solution that satisfies the creative urge that also brings in more money.


Same colour palette, different styles
by Janet Lee Sellers, Monument, CO, USA


“Light Peace Field”
acrylic painting
by Janet Lee Sellers

You recently wrote,”It seems some artists strive for consistency, while others shun it.” I do both. I strive for consistency, only to overdose and then shun it. My studio is loaded with experiments, mostly enjoyable, and all on their way to a finish of some sort. Recently, I put up about 40 paintings on my studio wall from the last 3 decades. It looked like there were a bunch of different people’s works up on display. The singular consistency was that I used the same pot colors over and over in different ways, some in direct, unmixed color, and some had glazes piling up to in a hundred layers. My conflict of consistency vs. exploration is perhaps the only consistent factor in my art life. Oddly, while the stylistics of my work change around a lot, my palette of colors remains relatively the same, and I like to use colors right out of the pot. My darks are most frequently dioxazin purple and lights hansa yellow or white. My medium tones are most often red or blue. I remember clearly the day I realized I only had 3 colors to choose from in my crayon set of 64 pieces; everything leaned one way or another to the primaries. From then on, hue was irrelevant to me, and I worked from values.


Rothko’s exploration
by Nina Meledandri, New York, NY, USA


“Random Thoughts #911”
oil painting, 8 x 8 inches
by Nina Meledandri

I don’t believe that Rothko is a good example of “the look.” His mature style was abstract, not figurative. While it was specific and identifiable it was never formula. This is a man who, in the midst of producing some of the most powerful and evocative images of the 20th century, killed himself because he thought his work might not have true meaning. This was not someone in control of his product, this was a man driven by self-exploration, self-doubt and pushing the visual boundaries of his time.





Keep collectors guessing
by Eleanor Blair, Gainesville, FL, USA


“Wekiva River”
oil painting, 36 x 48 inches
by Eleanor Blair

As a Florida landscape painter, I suppose my ‘look’ is the unique freehand realism I bring to palm trees. I do find that many of my collectors seem to enjoy acquiring examples of every genre I like to work with. I hear it all the time, “We’ve got one of your Ireland paintings, a Caribbean scene, a figurative piece, and an architectural study. One of these days, we’re going to have to finally have one of your palm trees, but now we want this still life!” Having a brand, or being a brand, might be good for business, but I’d die of boredom. My collectors recognize and value the freedom I express in my choice of subject. It gives them a reason to keep coming back to the studio. “Now what are you up to!”


Open exploration
by Cathy Johnson, MO, USA


“Wheat Scythe”
watercolor painting
by Cathy Johnson

The whole branding concept makes me nuts. I know it IS, I know it exists, I know you’re right, and because of that I know I would starve if I depended only on those buying my work — just as I would shrivel and die if I tried to narrow my focus on “the Cathy Johnson look,” whatever that is.

Creativity is simply too exciting and challenging, to me. I can’t corral it to a single look or style or medium — in truth, I don’t think I have a style, though people tell me they can recognize my work. There is too much that delights me and makes my fingers itch to capture it to try to force my square peg into that round hole of buyer approval and branding. I paint landscapes, people, animals, botanicals, architectural scenes and whatever else captures the light in a way that delights my eye. I use watercolours, acrylic, pen and ink, graphite, or whatever seems to suit the subject or my mood. It would be too boring to contemplate otherwise, and creativity, making art, should never, ever bore the artist.

There is 1 comment for Open exploration by Cathy Johnson

From: Betty Newcomer — Sep 02, 2008

Thank you Cathy, as I too love all subjects [having training in illustration]work in almost all mediums, with people liking scratchboard drawings as well as watercolor or oils, etc.. You are well known from North Light books, etc. as I am giving my art away, however we are still on the same plane, and we are Artists because we love the experience, not the money!


Following his own path to success
by Phyllis Rauch, Jocotepec, Mexico


“Dreamscape” 1993
oil painting, 90 x 90 cm
by Georg Rauch

I’m certain my late husband, artist Georg Rauch would have agreed with you wholeheartedly. When he returned from the trenches and prison camps of Russia following WWII, the accepted “looks” in Vienna were either abstract expressionism, or the Wiener Schule. They were a group of artists painting a kind of miniature, fantastic surrealism.

Neither of these looks, which many ran to copy, satisfied Georg’s deep need to paint, in his own way, the effects of a horrible war on an 18 to 21 year old’s sensibilities. He left Europe in the sixties for the US and later Mexico, always determinedly following his own path. In spite of avoiding the sought after modes and styles, Georg successfully made a living as a professional artist for over fifty years. He painted over 2000 oils as well as creating hundreds of drawings, watercolours, serigraphs, and kinetic sculptures. I hope many other young artists will be able to find the courage to follow his lead. He was one of the happiest and most fulfilled men I’ve ever met, because every day of his life he lived his dream and painted only that which he needed and wanted to express.

(RG note) Thanks Phyllis. Readers will enjoy reading Georg’s book The Jew with the Iron Cross, A Record of Survival in WWII Russia translated by Phyllis Rauch. Georg survived the German Eastern Front retreat and a Russian POW camp while his mother hid Jews in their Viennese attic.


Finding one’s distinctive voice
by Bill Hibberd, Summerland, BC, Canada


“Canada goose”
oil painting, 9 x 11.5 inches
by Bill Hibberd

It is interesting to contemplate our choices and methods as we create art. As I stand before my canvas I seem to be struggling to discover a personal language. I’m all too aware that there is nothing truly new under the sun and yet I try to sift through my observations of other artists, nature itself and the occasional accidental discovery in the hope of finding my own voice. I think another reason I search for a consistent “language” is because it is so difficult to be always beginning with each new painting, never knowing how I will begin or proceed through the process. It will be reassuring to have a familiar point of departure and methodology.


Revisiting the past
by Rod Mackay, Lunenburg, NS, Canada


“Skiffs At Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia”
acrylic painting, 8 x 10 inches
by Rod Mackay

Artists, dealers and collectors frequently tell me, “I know your work.” I can’t see how that this is possible as I have a body of work stretching back five decades. I don’t even have a complete understanding of what I have done. I have never had time to record more than a few hundred images. This led me to think about my long ago career as a newspaper cartoonist, moments of producing commercial art (in particular pen-and-ink illustrations for books) and even creating work meant for tombstones. All quite different from some of the surrealist stuff I was doing for amusement and from the “folk art” painting of game boards and sea chests back in 1960s). I even had a flirtation with abstract and non-objective art.

Of course, I know they mean the “current look” which until recently has included landscape, marine and floral images. Having just moved to Nova Scotia, I think I unconsciously picked up on what other artists were producing here. I have recently recalled that I once had a reputation for painting realistic figures which dominated their landscapes. I have now gone back to the future and restarted this interest.


Working to find your brand
by Claudia Roulier


“Nightmares and dreams”
original painting
by Claudia Roulier

I think artists should brand themselves, once you have done that 1000th painting, it should belong to you, you should own it, for better or worse. I work in several mediums and I now have people tell me they know when they see a Roulier, no matter if it’s a painting or an assemblage. Artists brand themselves, it can’t be helped.




There is 1 comment for Working to find your brand by Claudia Roulier

From: scharolette chappell — Sep 03, 2008

Claudia, I love your painting, drawn to it by your use of color earthy tones. Yes, I beleive individuality is just that, at least our paintings should be our signatures not forgeries but one and our own. Once we find ourselves we will evolve within our knowledge, perhaps looking very different than from the start, but our own signature our fingerprint unchanged.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The look



From: Bob — Aug 28, 2008

Here I go again – terminology. The word ‘ artist ‘ applies to musicians, dancers, writers, sculptors, architects, painters, etc. From now on, let’s refer to those who paint as ‘ painters ‘. To do otherwise “…is incorrect and assumptive “. ( Jake Mol in the Watercolour Gazette, Nov/Dec ’05 ).

After all, this is The ” Painter’s ” Keys.

From: Bryan Dunleavy — Aug 28, 2008

I recall going to Brussels a few years ago and seeing paintings by this guy called Rene Magritte in a style completely unlike that of the Rene Magritte. As it turned out the two painters were one and the same. The first painted all those text book iconic images before WW2; the second continued to paint throughout his lifetime in the 40s and 50s. Just goes to show that successful artists can become prisoners of a certain style

From: Faith — Aug 29, 2008

Thanks Bob (see comment further up the page). I agree. Painters are painters. In my view, many people who call themselves “artists” are indulging in “self-marketing.” There must be something about the “artist” status that makes it attractive, but there’s also a lot of hype.

Likewise “musician.” I have personal experience of this. I am a trained musician, but also an opera singer (for which I also trained for many years). The terms “musician” and ” opera singer” are no more synonymous than artist and painter! As an opera singer one tends to have a reputation for being less musical, less adaptable, more temperamental etc. – and there is almost no differentiation in people’s minds between a soloist bearing the brunt of a performance by singing leading and crucial roles, and a member of the chorus who appears as one of many with only marginal responsibility. As a musician, one is taken (more) seriously! I suppose it’s really a case of calling a rose a rose (rather than a flower).

From: Faith — Aug 29, 2008

Now commenting on the letter! I visited a big Rothko retrospective in Hamburg in June. It was a remarkable experience. Up till then I had definitely been sceptical, but I was impressed by the sheer persistence of that painter’s quest for self-expression. Rothko hated his work to be called most of the terms in Bob’s letter. He insisted that the works were the result of extreme pain and distress. He tried to make galleries show them in rather dark spaces. Some of them are really impressive and one huge one I sat in front of for a while (and other visitors marched past) seemed to jump off the wall. Others had rather strange and unpretty colour combinations and jarred on me. Maybe that’s what he wanted.

As Bob wrote, agents and gallerists jump on what they think will sell. The result is that painters have to cater for current trends shown and accepted in their own work by repeating it ad nauseum.

Comparing it again with music: the theme and variations type of composition enjoyed great favour for centuries. In fact, no musical competition can get on without repetition. But at least in music there is finality and new beginning.

100 almost identical landscapes remain almost identical. A kind of déjà vu sets in. After a while, the painter involved even starts teaching others how to do it (viz Bob Ross) and before you can turn round, everyone is doing it with more or less skill – but the value of their “artistry” is decided by commercial values. Warhol didn’t invent the soup can, but he interpreted it in such a way that it became known as art. A consummate piece of self-marketing!

And since the general public desires guidance and recognizability, it’s no wonder Monet is the waterlily guy, Cézanne the fruit and veg guy, Renoir the pretty lady guy, Cassatt the kid lady, etc.

Make a list of painters and define what makes them who they are. It’s an eye-opener.

From: Michael Chesley Johnson — Aug 29, 2008

Getting a certain “look” is something most emerging artists I know struggle with. If you examined such an artist’s body of work (work that hasn’t been tossed, burned or painted over), you’ll see such a variety of “looks” that you’d think the artist had a split-personality complex. My own work is that way. However, when I put together a show, I go through my oeuvre and pull out pieces that share a common subject, medium, size and style. This puts before the public a subset of my work that can be interpreted as the work of a professional.

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Aug 29, 2008

For someone who has achieved definition, it can be dangerous to change. A Rock’n’Roll guy named Rick Nelson was invited to play at an oldies but goodies night in Madison Square Garden. He didn’t have the right haircut, which was bad enough, but when, after a few tunes, he tried to play a Rolling Stones tune, he was booed off the stage. In Madison Square Gardens, wow.

He later wrote a song about the night that became popular called “Garden Party” And at the end, his words were that if he couldn’t change, “I’d rather drive a truck.”

I don’t show more than half of the paintings that I do, because they don’t fit in with my usual labored but identifiable subject.

And, yes, we must tolerate “Artist” just like Rap Artist, haha and ugh. A friend started introducing himself using one word, “Painter” and everyone figured he was a house painter!

3,000 emails!

From: Susan Holland — Aug 29, 2008

There are four artists (read “painter” if you wish) we are speaking of here: There is the artist you think you are, the artist you wish you were, the artist you want others to think you are, and the artist that you are.

Seems to me, if you spend too much time thinking about all this, you may never find out who the last one is! Being aware that there are eyes out there looking (or not) at your work is a good thing. But even actors don’t spend most of their time in costume! It’s the sweaty stuff that moves beyond “image” or “look.”

From: Jim Larwill — Aug 29, 2008
From: Rene Wojcik — Aug 29, 2008

I generally recognize a “style” rather than a “look” in an artists painting. Regardless of the subject matter a persons style comes through. If, however, an artist wants to create something that sells that is a different matter. You are now commercializing your work and it is a job. It is now a profession and a livelyhood. Nothing wrong with that but it does smack of contrivance. Just like the artist who makes prints, tee shirts, post cards, etc from his or her work. Only to make a buck….no more and no less.

From: Sally Haig — Aug 29, 2008

Ahhh, the “look” also known as the “signature style” etc.etc.etc. this letter reminds me of an article that was about are you working for your gallery or are you working for yourself? There are many, many, many marketing consultants now that will tell you all about how to develop and keep your ‘look’…and there is a lot of talk about finding a gallery that will not drop you if you change your look…many artists find they are in trouble with their current customers if they stray from their look. They may be terminally bored but they will keep cranking out their look.

From: Nancy Moskovitz — Aug 29, 2008
From: Liz — Aug 29, 2008

The 2007 Murakami show at MOCA Los Angeles exemplifies the “branding” issue. Talk about commodification, signature style, and marketing! Most tellingly, the show was titled c.Murakami. The artists had recently collaborated with Louis Vuitton, and within the exhibition was installed a Louis Vuitton store, selling $850 purses, and gallery-goers were lined up to purchase them.! Murakami had designed a CD cover for the singer Kanye West—–guess who performed at the opening. Talk about the hybridization of famous brands!!

From: Rick Rotante — Aug 29, 2008

I had an epiphany the other day regarding “style” or “look”.

I was looking at a painting I had done in 1988. I was a seminal work at the time. As I stared at it, looking on it anew so to speck, I realized that even though twenty years had passed, my “style” hadn’t changed one bit. My technique had improved along with my drawing, but that painting looks like the work I now do. I was amazed that after all the ground I had covered, I was standing in the same spot twenty years later artistically speaking. All the time spent developing my “signature” or “style”, turns out it’s all there in that painting made in 1988 as it is in my most current work. I had come full circle and ended where I started. What is odd is I’m not sure now if I’ve grown or just honed what I do naturally. I don’t know what to make of it. I’m still absorbing the whole idea.

Though some painters change subject, do they really ever change their personal style? One creates a large body of work, over years and when I line them up, I found ME in the first one as in the last one.

From: D. A. Bickford — Aug 29, 2008

One of the reasons I so look forward to this bi-weekly letter is because for too many years I have felt isolated! It is exciting, invigorating to know that 1000’s of “artists” – painters, sculptors, photographers and creative people read and ponder this letter! I feel connected to a larger world of creative people and that can only be good.

Though nothing can replace real human contact, this letter lets me feel like I am part of an illuminating conversation about art. Something that barely ever happens in my day to day activities. I have suggested this letter to many people who crave this very kind of conversation!

I would like to suggest that you continue to find a “common thread” in the questions that people send you to discuss in your twice-weekly and, tell us when it IS a common thread. It’s wonderful to ponder what others are thinking about and this letter never fails to raise my aspirations.

As for consistency vs. exploration – the day we all decide that art has one answer is the day art ceases to exist.

From: John Ferrie — Aug 29, 2008

It never ceases to amaze me how little the general public has to know before a global brand like Mark Rothko is so easily recognized.

But as an artist who is dedicated to building their brand, I do have to admire any artist who has done it…

Many of these artist have crossed over to the familiar by having their work not only in galleries, museums and corporate collections, but also on everything from calendars and catalogs to posters and everything else that has nothing to do with art.

I want to be known as a painter who has a through line with their art. My art speaks of my loves and things that make me happy.

Following the endless and mindless weather vane of what is or is not “IT” in this world just leads to one thing….Really really bad art!!

From: Loraine Wellman — Aug 29, 2008

I feel that, for artists, trying to be consistent with a” look” is going to lead to a dead-end. We are, after all, human beings, not machines producing handbags. We need to paint what excites us while being aware of what the excitement is about. That way, we express our own individuality. If we become hung up on keeping to some preconceived style or subject, we could end up just plagiarizing ourselves and producing decorator art – bland and emotionless. Ultimately, we all want to get better and better and we are responding to what is happening in our lives so there is bound to be some kind of change. Our ultimate audience could be one that isn’t even born yet – and the paintings lurking unsold in the corner of a studio because they don’t have the same “look” could end up being the most desired.

From: Liz — Aug 29, 2008

Yes, I’m still there in my work too, even the drawing I did when I was two years old.

From: obDada — Aug 29, 2008

RoberT youR coMMents aRe aLwaYs righT oN!!

YoU aRe truLy aN aRTisT’s ArtisT

i aM inspireD bY yoUR insighTs…

ThaNk YoU MucHo

From: Janet Toney — Aug 30, 2008

You are right in this letter, and it’s depressing to me, because I like to do a thing a few times and then go on.

However, I do think each person has a “style” anyway, no matter what they are working on, abstraction, realism etc. I base this on classes I attended in college. The instructor always had us show work and critique each other (only positives or kind suggestions allowed). After the first few classes each of us knew who painted what without looking for the signature!

From: ChrisH — Aug 30, 2008

Someone mentioned earlier that horrible phrase “the hallmark of the amateur”. Well, I’d rather be a hallmarked amateur than churn out repetitive work for the rest of my life simply because people “expect” it. People do that every day on Ebay. I’ve been hallmarked for thirty-five years; I’ve painted landscapes, flowers, and a few abstracts in all kinds of media, but I’m settled now as far as media are concerned. I have a website and have tended to sell the same kind of work from it (again, what people “expect”)… order to produce more abstract experimental stuff I have simply set up a new, quite separate website with it’s own identity. No-one collects my work so I don’t have to “oblige” the public. Life’s too short and I want to try painting lots more ideas before my time’s up.

From: Cate — Aug 31, 2008

Here in Scotland, the current look is the wee white croft in a more-or-less abstract highland or agricultural landscape composed of blocks of intense hues squirted and scraped and slashed seemingly straight from the tube. Everyone’s doing their version of it. The many privately-owned galleries on every street corner are only too happy to fulfill the demand—dare I say craze?—for this lurid look, while I suppose artists are laughing all the way to the bank, and who can blame them?

There are hopeful signs of resistance, though: at one of the country’s biggest artfests recently, I noted a sign in a gallery to the effect that “(famous artist) has moved on to new work and will no longer be producing white cottage paintings, so please don’t even ask for them.” I thought, Yesssss!

From: Henry — Aug 31, 2008

Too many of those white cottages around and the price of real estate in Scotland may go down!

From: Cynthia Wilhelm — Sep 01, 2008

On a visit to the Chicago Museum of Art, I sat in front of a Mark Rothko painting for a half hour or more, wanting to understand it. After a while I felt the colors wash over and through me. It was a permeating sort of experience and answered my questions without words. Something in me changed that day and I am grateful for it.

From: Dave Brown — Sep 01, 2008

I have heard the comment but have not found attribution: “If it looks like what you expect art to be, it probably looks like someone else’s art.”

From: Mary Quintal — Sep 02, 2008

I find it very interesting that a disscussion of artists painting a consistant style or subject matter has come just when iI needed it most. I have been tolld by juriers that I am inconsistant and have not discovered my style because I paint in so many mediums and so many different subjects. I have always thought a painter should be able to paint any subject and use what ever medium to express their vision.

From: Rick Rotante — Sep 02, 2008

Along the same topic of “style or look” – Those who came before with a new style or look were anonymous until what it was they were painting took hold and became the “signature” of that artist and the current flavor everyone since has been trying to copy.

Velasquez, Monet, Van Gogh, these artists weren’t painting to collective style; they were trying, unsuccessfully at first to do something new. Every form from abstract to impressionism while still unknown was looked upon as weird and un-sellable, until someone or a few people with influence believed in it and started to exhibit it and show the art world it had worth. The likes of Rothko, Monet, Pollock and Van Gogh and many others couldn’t get arrested until people began to accept these styles as legitimate art. We tend to forget that every new art form that has been created was met with disdain and uncertainty at first. Up until then the only acceptable style was classical art because that is what we had grown up with and understood. Fauvism, The Ash Can School, Cubism and Impression, Expressionism and every other style was looked upon as junk.

My point here is that artists set the trend. The creative mind of the artist creates new styles and looks not gallery owners or the general public. Repeating what was leads to a dead end. If your style or look isn’t in vogue, keep at it. If you must paint the norm to get by so be it, but keep your originality at all costs. YOUR style can be the new thing every artist from today on will be trying to paint for the next hundred years.

From: vincent — Sep 03, 2008

My neighbor is a painter. He paint’s walls. I am an artist. Luckily Bob Genn’s web site doesn’t have any Nazi rules for terminology.

From: Constance Vlahoulis — Sep 27, 2008
From: Laura Noe — Oct 31, 2008

This letter confused me. As an artist, I have learned that we must experiment outside of our confort zone in other mediums, other techniques in order to grow. I enjoy the experience of creating in various mediums. I like the variety I have in my artwork and find that it offers diversity and attracts a diverse range of interested viewers.






Par 5

oil painting 16 x 20 inches
by Chris Bolmeier, Omaha, NE, USA


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That Includes Sally Jackson of Oakville, ON, Canada who wrote, “I’ve been told commercial galleries look for consistency, a body of work, a series that shows you can — unsaid — paint the same damned thing over and over again.”

And also Joseph Jahn of Denmark who wrote, “My ‘style’ goes all over the place. I recognized this early as a handicap to sales. But you know, following the great tradition of Picasso, that’s for others to deal with. Let others bore themselves with great sales and dull times in the studio.”

And also Randy Bosch of Jackson Hole, WY, USA who wrote, “Wow! You must have had a seriously bad day to produce this rant. Have a cookie and pet your cat.”

And also Anonymous who wrote, “I have had a lot of visits to a local dentist recently who has an office filled with abstracted art. All of which I see teeth in — from teeth-shaped trees to teeth-shaped landscape. I wonder what gynaecologists put up on their walls — Judy Chicago?”




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