Finding My Own Personal Style

I seem to be examining my psyche in paint these days. I was feeling somewhat unsettled that I keep trying new ways of expressing myself, but continuing to feel that I had not quite found my way. I was feeling that I had not yet found my personal voice.

I was pleased to find an article in the magazine LensWork* that put my mind at ease. It was written by a very discerning photographer, Guy Tal, and it applies to all of us pursing a creative endeavor. The name of the article is “Forget Vision.” These are some of his words:

“Forget vision, forget personal style, forget unique voice; these are not goals, they are by-products. The most meaningful art you can make is not about a particular look, subject matter, or visual effect, but about the way you respond to and interpret the world.”

He goes on to say, “Searching for a vision is futile; it is a moving target. The only way to find one’s vision once and for all, is to stop evolving as a person and as an artist.”

Ann Hart Marquis-Winter in New Mexico-personal style

New Mexico, Winter #2, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 20-inches, ©2015. Ann Hart Marquis

I feel that my work is changing and evolving almost every time I pick up a paintbrush. I am relieved to hear someone say that finding one’s personal style is a somewhat frustrating goal. That is what I have been feeling for a while. Now I know why.

I would love your comments.

*Lenswork, Jan-Feb, 2015, No. 116.

New Mexico Abstract Landscape-Winter

As some of you know, in my current series I am painting the colors, shapes and light of New Mexico. In a sense, I am not interested in the actual landscape that I see. I am still in the process of distilling the setting into its purest essence.

This is my first New Mexico-Winter painting. Although all of the leaves have fallen off the deciduous trees, there is still a touch of green and orange to be seen. The skies are frequently covered in grey clouds that are almost white.

Ann Hart Marquis-New Mexico Winter #1-abstract

New Mexico Winter #1, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

This is a much more abstract landscape than I have painted before. I sometimes wrestle with the concept of abstract art. One idea is that it neither represents anything nor is representational. My paintings do not represent anything except images that I conceive. They do not come from an actual scene or a particular place, rather they are a mélange of impressions of how I perceive New Mexico.

It snowed here recently—a rare occurrence in Albuquerque. I am planning now to do a white abstract landscape. Let’s see what I come up with.

Feedback on this painting is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Shadow & Light Magazine

Although I try to paint almost every day, occasionally I like to explore different ways to think about and delve into varied art-related projects. The class I teach for beginning painters is one example. Another example is plunging into being the art director of a new fine art photography online magazine called Shadow & Light Magazine. Here is the official description of the publication:

Shadow & Light Magazine  Signature Image

Shadow & Light Magazine Signature Image

Shadow & Light Magazine is designed for photographers across all levels of photography offering valuable information about a range of photographic subjects including portfolios, and individual images, along with interviews and in-depth essays. It is also designed for the photographer who desires to present their work to a large audience, including curators, collectors, gallerists, and photography peers and professionals. It is also designed to be appealing to all art lovers.

The magazine was launched in September, 2014. It is flourishing and I am proud to be a part of its success.

Shadow & Light Magazine Cover-photography

Shadow & Light Magazine Cover

As art director, my main responsibilities are selecting the cover image, helping the editor with the selection of Showcase Portfolio and Single Image Showcase submissions. I also assist with editing.

Because the publisher and editor of the magazine is my partner Tim Anderson, I have learned to appreciate photography as a fine art that can be just as expressive as painting. I have had the pleasure of viewing many wonderful images over the last ten years. An entire world of creativity has opened up for me, influencing my art in ways that are still a mystery to me.

A History of My Art

Sometimes when I am rummaging around in my studio I come across a painting that I haven’t seen or thought about for a while. When I look at the date of the painting I am sometimes surprised.

One such painting is a small work that I did in 2008. I do remember that I painted it in the winter and that it was a New Mexico scene. It is cold here now and at this time I am working on a New Mexico abstract series depicting how I see the winter landscape. It is interesting to me that I painted one lone winter scene about seven years ago and now I am doing a series. I like this little painting.

Ann Hart Marquis-Road Home,  January, New Mexico

Road Home, January, acrylic on canvas, 11×14 inches, 2008. ©Ann Hart Marquis

Except for what I have sold, I have kept all of my work since I started painting 15 years ago, including my drawings. They remind me of where I started, how I tried new things, how I endeavored to be a better draftsperson and how I experimented with color. They provide a history of my art. Above all, my older work reminds me that I have produced many images in a variety of styles trying to figure out how to create an interesting painting.

What I didn’t do when I first started painting was to paint in series. Art schools and marketing concepts suggest that to be successful, an artist “should” work in a series. That is because supposedly the best way for artists to get recognized and develop an identity, is to cultivate a distinct style. It is said that here is no better way to do that than to begin creating art in multiples.

I have done several successful series, but I still like to paint something totally quirky and enchanting to me that goes with nothing except the fact that I consider it a good painting. Here is one of my favorite paintings that just stands on its own. It is part of a collection in Phoenix.

Ann Hart Marquis-Red Bridge-acrylic

Red Bridge, acrylic on canvas, 16×20 inches, 2008. ©Ann Hart Marquis

Winter Solstice

Today is the first day of winter, the Winter Solstice. It will be the longest night of the year, meaning that despite the cold winter, the days get progressively longer after the Winter Solstice until the Summer Solstice in 2015.

Here in New Mexico the skies are unusually grey and it is unusually cold and dry. As in most parts of the country, most of the trees have no leaves. However, for the southwest, winter means brown grass and shrubs. There is little green to break up the endless shapes of sienna and umber.

Ann Hart Marquis-Mew Mexico Late Fall #3-winter solstice

New Mexico Late Fall #3, acrylic on paper, 12×20 inches, 2014. ©Ann Hart Marquis

For the next few months I plan to continue my New Mexico series to see the colors of the landscape as it becomes colder. I already see that the clouds are a blue-grey, without the subtle pinks and oranges of fall.

And my last fall painting:

Ann Hart Marquis-New  Mexico Late Fall #4-winter solstice

New Mexico Late Fall #4, acrylic on canvas, 9×12 inches, 2014. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I spent the Winter Solstice dancing, my second favorite creative activity. Did you celebrate the solstice?

Abstraction of the Landscape

In my current series I am painting the colors, shapes and light of New Mexico. In a sense, I am not interested in actual landscape that I see. I am interested in distilling the vistas into their purest essence. When I paint, I strive for an abstraction of the landscape.

As Georgia O’Keeffe put it, “Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in an abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is the lines and colors put together so they say something. For me that is the very essence of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.”

Ann Hart Marquis-New Mexico II- abstraction

New Mexico-Late Fall #2, acrylic on canvas, 18×24 inches, 2014. ©Ann Hart Marquis

When I look around me I see the unadorned brown shapes of the extinct volcanoes in the western horizon. I see the greys and blacks that the lava flow left behind. There are also the restrained reds and oranges of the adobe houses that appear all over New Mexico. There are the ochers and siennas of the high desert plateau. This time of year the landscape is stark and muted.

I see the colors of the landscape bathed in intense light which I somrtimes find harsh. But it is New Mexico and it still is the land of enchantment.

My studio and online Holiday sale is still happening now through December 31, 2014. The above painting is available.

Response to My Surroundings

A generally agreed upon definition of abstract art is the use a visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.

Along those lines, I am now doing a series of paintings that are a response to New Mexico. Right now, as in many parts of the world, the landscape is brown and dark, fall is almost over, and the sky is frequently grey. I am on my second painting and my process has been to look at nature and choose paint colors based on what I see. Then in a response to my surroundings, I just start putting paint on canvas using a variety of brushes and tools. I play with paint until I think the painting is “finished.”

Ann Hart Marquis-New Mexico, Late Fall-acrylic

New Mexico, Late Fall, acrylic on canvas, 18×24-inches, 2014. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I realize that my finished product is a result on what is going on unconsciously and consciously. I guess that you could say that I am painting both the inner and outer landscape. It is rather exciting to not know what I will end up with.

In my continuing foray into the abstract world, I find that I still like to see that comforting horizon line. It is difficult to lose it and still call a painting an abstract landscape.

I would appreciate any feedback.

A Creative You-Turn

Guest Post by Tim Anderson

I have been a professional photographer for more than 40 years, and a fine art photographer for almost 15 years. Several months ago, however, I had decided to not do any more fine art photography. It just became too much of an effort to arrange for a model, scout and pick a location, schedule a time to shoot, and then spend even more time post-processing.

I felt that I had quite a lot of work archived that I really hadn’t done anything with, and that when the time came I could do something with those. Well, that time came only a few months after I had decided to take that break, mentioned above. I was in the middle of what I will call a “you-turn.” This is a point at which you may run up against a wall in your creative pursuits, and feel there is nowhere else to go. The tide was ebbing.

My you-turn came late in the evening one day as I was making the rounds of the house, turning off lights, etc. I was walking past the dining room, and took a peek out there to make sure the outside door was locked.

Shadow and Light-Suttelle

My eyes were drawn to a silhouette (above) on the south wall. We have a very large painting there and I noticed a very compelling group of lines and shadows, which were created by the very bright outside yard light casting shadows from window posts and other framework of the windows. I took out my camera gear and proceeded to work with the shadows. I placed several Winnie-the-Pooh characters in the light’s path and their shadows were were also cast on the large painting. I worked on a variety of shadowy effects until more than an hour later, when I had shot my last frame. That was my “you-turn.”

Shadow and Light-untitled

I only needed that one image projected on the wall to light a fire under my semi-extinguished creative spirit. Since that night I have created two completely different new series, “French Noir” (below) and “Shadow and Light,” (above) which are both driving me to new adventures in post-processing as well as being able to enable me to view some of my long-forgotten photos in a new creative light.

French Noir, untitled

Just when I thought I was creatively blocked I was offered an opportunity. Has that situation ever presented itself to you? If so, just take a slow look around and you may discover all the inspiration you need to make your own you-turn.

Good luck!

The Next Level

I have been painting for almost 15 years. When I started with my first workshop in France, I had no painting or drawing experience or skills. I was drawn to art at a young age, but I did not know I wanted to be an artist or that one day I would be painting. I had no innate artistic skills.

When I came home from that workshop in France with 10 days of painting experience, I knew that if I wanted to keep painting, which I did. I needed many hours, or perhaps years would be a better description, to develop into the kind of artist that I wanted to be.

Ann Hart Marquis,Looking at France, acrylic

Looking at France, acrylic on canvas, 11×14 inches, 2001. ©Ann hart Marquis

Since the beginning I have wanted to go to the “next level,” regardless of what that level would entail. I have never gotten over that feeling that I could do better or that I need and want to move on to something better.

For me going on to the next level means an effort to conceive new concepts and new ways of expressing them. It requires letting go of attitudes and frequently how I did things in the past.

Ann Hart Marquis-Red Chair, acrylic

Red Chair, acrylic on canvas, 16×20 inches, 2009. © Ann hart Marquis

In the past I have painted trees, fruit, chairs, jungle scenes, cities, landscapes and myself. In other words, I have been drawn to paint many different tableaus in many different techniques. Now I am asking myself what is it that I really want to paint, how I want to paint it and why.

AnnHartMarquis-Sunflowers

Sunflowers, acrylic on canvas, 14×14 inches, ©Ann Hart Marquis, Available

Recently, I came across an article in LensWork magazine by Guy Tal, a photographer. “Where the aesthetic appeal of an image is determined by what is in the frame, the significance of an image is determined by why it is in the frame,” he wrote.

Tal also suggests that an artist does not make art of things, but rather about things. If that is the case, the next level for me may be to step off into the world of abstract art.

Mayo #2, Rebbeca Crowell

Mayo #2, oil on canvas, 16×20 inches, 2013. © Rebecca Crowell

 

Tree Limbs

This past week, I have been working on a few projects simultaneously, but I have been focusing on what are sometimes called networked images. I have already posted one of these networked paintings and I even sold it (Limb to Limb, below)!

Ann Hart Marquis. Limb to Limb, acrylic

Limb to Limb. mixed media on paper, 12×20 inches. ©2014, Ann Hart Marquis

They are actually images taken of intertwined or overlapping trees and tree branches. That is where the concept of a network of tree limbs comes in. They are interesting to paint and they are part of my abstract landscape emphasis.

Ann Hart Marqui, Limb to Limb, acrylic

Limb to Limb II, mixed media on paper, 12×20-inches. ©2014, Ann Hart Marquis

They include a series of steps. First, I put a color that I like on heavy watercolor paper. Next, using charcoal and a black marker, I draw in random tree shapes and branches that I think will make an interesting composition. The last step is to apply dark and light paint to all areas of the painting, creating what becomes the finished painting. For this step I use paint brushes, rags and my fingers. The process takes me about 5-6 hours, not including time for paint to dry. Here is the one I just finished:

Marquis-Limb to Limb, III, acrylic

Limb to Limb III, mixed media on paper, 12×20 inches. ©2014, Ann Hart Marquis

I have been thinking about continuing the series on large canvases. I would love to have your opinion about this series.

Studio Sale:
For those of you who may have missed my recent newsletter, I am having a sale of all of my paintings, including works on paper through Dec 31, 2014. There is a 30% discount for those of you who have already purchased my paintings and a 15% discount for new buyers. Take a look at the portfolios on my site and contact me if you are interested or if you have questions.