A friend (and favorite artist) published a blog post the other day relating how her style evolved. It has a lot to do with artists who influenced her. I know several of my favorite artists influenced my tendency to one aspect of my style, which is to repeat a subject or even a particular image or shape repeatedly.
I wrote a bit about this on one blog post, Repeat, as an answer to people asking me “Why? Is it because you are trying to get it right?” No! I love some of my horses, and I fell in love with them and then went right back in and did another one.
The first artist I fell in love with was Claude Monet. It was August, and I was 20, alone in NYC on a hot humid summer Saturday in August. I walked into a deserted Metropolitan Museum as a young woman who had been bored by art museums in Los Angeles, deciding to see the Monet exhibit. I studied art as an architect, but of course, had seen poor slides and teeny images. There in one elegant room was a huge painting, an entire wall, of one painting of Monet’s waterlilies. A convenient bench caught me as I sank in front of it and stared, transfixed, for a long time. I was in love.
Above, Claude Monet, who repeatedly painted images, from the Haystack series
(two shown above), to the Rouen Cathedral series to his Water Lilies.
Below, two of my books opened to images of his Draculas.
The next artist I fell in love with was Billy Al Bengston. I sat across from one of his Draculas at Gensler, and loved the large iris. When the Puerto Escondido series came out, I was hooked, and wished I could afford it. Being local, I had the pleasure of meeting and breaking bread with him on several occasions, and he was the one who talked me out of going back to art school. He said, “Take the $15,000 and a year off and paint! Develope your skills and style. School will make you a good high school teacher. . .” (Note: $15,000 was the cost of a masters degree waaaay back then.) Bengston was a good model for me because he was both crisp and graphic, and had a textural quality. Something I also noticed in my own work.
Both of my first favorite artists did repetitive imagery.
There were others: David Hockney (seeing his California Pools in London’s Tate made me realize how special my life was as a Southern California girl.) He was all loose and rambling in his series on streets in Los Angeles, and I liked the way he was childlike. I wanted to be that loose (something I still strive for), and to also paint the places I love.
Marc Chagall, who told the most wonderful tales through an almost musical simplicity, stories of villages and roosters and donkeys and marriages and life. I aspire to that in some of mine, especially lately.
Coming full circle, why do I like painting the same images repeatedly? And why did some of my favorite artists? I speculate on them, but it may for the same reasons. I have thought about it more after my first quick posting a year ago. I love color, textures, and the way color floats on paper or is heavy on canvas. I love the texture of handmade paper, which is why I have a good collection. I like what graphite does, the way it makes a hard line or smears into unruly stains. Sometimes I think I should just paint color and textures, but I’ve never felt comfortable painting just lines or color. I have tried, and here is one of my few surviving images, meaning I liked it enough to not paint over it! (it is not as sparkly as the image suggests.)
And I never was attracted to completely abstract paintings, with one exception, and he takes my breath away: Mark Rothko. I saw him in NYC in my 30’s. I was intrigued by his work, but oh wow, had no idea how it would transform me to sit before one of his painting. I fell into color. With Monet I was on the outside looking in; with Rothko I was in the inside.
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Monet images are Creative Commons or Public Domain, courtesy Wikipedia:
Marc Chagall, I and the Village, 1911, oil on canvas MOMA;
Mark Rothko No. 14.