Tuesday, March 17, 2015

219: Make your [own] mark

Recently I've been impressed with the absolute necessity of developing a unique style. While it's tempting to follow a current fad–especially if it appears others are enjoying financial success pursuing that style–such imitation is a diversion from the more important pursuit of developing a personal signature.

Except in the early phases of a career such imitational strategies are bound to fail, especially in today's saturated market. It might have been possible to have a semblance of a career imitating other's work in the past but those days are long gone. But ultimately all artists need to ask why they would pursue such a course. We should be grateful the current market is forcing us to choose the correct path of fostered individuality.

In light of the need to pursue a radically individual path I'm currently painting large acrylics in a highly textured style. Both the technique and the compositional approach are departures from my previous work. With such a radical shift there is the possibility of failure. But my current axiom is:


Without failure your work will be derivative. Failure gives you the feedback to make the necessary adjustments to evolve a personal style. Failure forces you to deal with personal idiosyncrasies which are key to developing a unique style. Your quirks reveal your distinctive strengths and weaknesses.

From the seeds of failure grow the fruits of success.

Above: Work in progress, Dream of Light, 44" x 44", acrylic on canvas

Brad Teare–March 2015


  1. Beautiful post.I personally have been a fan of your inimitable distinctive style.I look forward to the new path you are going to experiment. Yes, failures have been helping me to see where I am going.I probably will not see financial success with my art but if my failures lead me to excellence one day, that will be success for me. Thank you very much for this thoughtful post.

    1. What a beautiful comment Padmaja. It gives me a lot to think about. Your work is very beautiful and is certainly deserving of all types of success including financial. But I think you have the right idea–press forward no matter what. Many thanks!

  2. It still is hard to accept sometimes, but failure is crucial to growth and development. I think you are on a path that will lead you towards your very own distinctive style, if you're not already there.

    For me, I no longer worry about style. However, I do worry about uniqueness. This can be expressed in so many ways, not just style. Motif, theme are two thoughts that come to mind.

    In fact, in the over-crowded space of traditional representational landscapes (where I find myself), there's a lot of homogenous work.

    The real question is how do you stand out? How do you become individually recognizable? Do you paint the backlit california landscapes like Dunphy? Do you paint bucolic rural American scenes like a Pototschnik? Do you paint sunlit woman sitting on benches w/children and flowers like a Volegov?

    This topic was good, Brad, in that it represents what's been on my mind for a while. Truly, I don't worry about style. I am just not passionate about trying to find a style that separates me from others. I worry more about how to make motifs/compositions/concepts that are unique. I'm not there (yet). Truly. I recognize that most of my art is lost among the sameness as others at present. The paintings are pretty good, but I'm not individually recognizable.

    But I'd rather make paintings that people enjoy and purchase, even if the style isn't distinctive. How much different really is a NIKE sneaker from an Adidas? Or a Two Guys burger from Red Robin? Each gives good value to the customers out there. (granted food and sneakers are not paintings!)

    For me, intentionally striving towards a unique style is like Don Quixote jousting at windmills. I just don't think I have it in me. If it is, it'll come out on it's own as I paint and grow as a painter.

    But I do think it's crucial to find your own artistic niche, whether style, motif, theme, or any number of factors that mark your own artistic territory/market space.

    And, more to the point, you can have the most unique style and still be a market unknown. It really comes down to massive exposure / branding to associate what your works/style as a painter to your name (brand).

    Interesting and thoughtful post, Brad! I'm experimenting in my own way and I've learned to embrace failure! It still can hurt to paint a loser that's destined for the burn pile. But the lessons those paintings had in them are priceless in development as a painter!

    God bless!

    1. I agree with you, Robert. Chasing or fostering a style is pointless. It has to emerge naturally. Some might be more be conscious of the process though.

      I'm at the phase where I'm synthesizing a long artistic process (I'm 58 years old). I've done a lot of different styles and am pausing to take a look at what is really authentic to my artistic project and what are affectations or accumulated expectations or misplaced dreams. I'm reminded of Frederick Remington who was naturally an illustrator and had problems transitioning to impressionist landscapes. He didn't enjoy the illustration type of art and decided to pursue a different course that wasn't as profitable.

      Ultimately it's about burrowing down and really discovering what we are meant to do. I love to see any artist evolve and improve. I see that in your work.

    2. Brad, I hear ya... something about approaching the big 60 that is making lots of us reassess our work and where we want to go with it. I'm a traditional painter (a Putney Painter under the direction of Richard Schmid) and I'm finding that the pool of traditional, representational painters is too large.

      Just because we see an artist winning national awards, getting magazine articles and such - doesn't mean he or she is able to make a living with art sales. I know artists like that personally.

      So, I'm exploring, experimenting, and developing a new body of work in acrylic that is exciting for me. Since I am not selling enough of my "clone" work anyway, I'm free to try something else. I'm also heading toward passive income and direct sales. I used to work with galleries, but many of them have closed, and I'm not a fan of just having my work sit there for a year or two - that's because my work is part of a style that has completely saturated the market.

      I know many, many really accomplished and well known traditional artists who are barely making enough to pay the bills. Another reason why I'm trying something different... because I see more contemporary, representational work selling better than traditional.

      What have I got to lose? Besides, my new work is faster to produce, I enjoy it, and it doesn't really look like anyone else's because it combines traditional composition with iconic images. The response to it is just as good as with my older works.

      Sorry so long.... I am wordy!

    3. Well said. I agree that this change is probably both chronologically produced (I'm approaching 60, too) and market induced. I will definitely check out your work. You've got me intrigued! Many thanks for your comment.

    4. Thanks Brad. BTW: I like to do research and I see that art with a more contemporary slant selling better overall then traditional. Check out http://powersgallery.com and http://xanadugallery.com Larry Powers used to sell only traditional/academic work and now he's added some contemporary styled artists, and guess which kind of work is selling well? Not that we should change to chase the market, but it's still nice to know if you're headed in that direction anyway.

      I'm 59. We probably graduated the same year tho - 1974 for me.

    5. I checked out both of those galleries. They both have a nice balance of contemporary and traditional painting. My abstracts have really been liberating even though I'm swinging back toward realism a bit. I learned so much from them I want to keep doing them if only for the insights. I think the market will be open to both approaches from the same artist. I think the market is less insistent on specialization.

  3. I have followed you for years now, where did the time go? I have noticed you leaning to different directions even though your work is very unique and beautiful. I felt there was more you were seeking, not out of necessity, but personal growth. I think the economic situation has become the "mother of invention" for you recently and pushed you into new areas. You don't stagger into something unprepared, you have a discipline. I noticed many major artists were attributed to "periods" with their work. One interesting aspect of changing style or subject is the prior works become rare and more valuable. Buyers waste time waiting for the next piece. If it is clear an artist is in transition the work available may be part of an ongoing process and that style may not be produced again. I think you will find a new niche combining your broken color, thick paint, composition, and all the integrity you have exhibited to your video audience.
    I foresee a merged style with new subject matter. I don't rule out portraits either. Just a feeling I have.

    1. I am heading into a new direction–for now at least. But who knows if I will synthesize this new mode with the ideas I learned on my oil painting journey. There has been something very elemental missing in my plein air experimentation. James Gurney's Watercolor in the Wild video reminded me of all the experience I have in watercolor and acrylics. And how perhaps I needed to return, at least in some ways, to those methods.

      As always I appreciate your thoughtful comments, Bruce.

    2. Go Brad. You've got courage, and I have a feeling it will pay off richly. I agree with returning to your ability with water media. If you love working with it, why return to oil - just because gallery owners think their clientele wants oil. That oil collecting crowd is diminishing - I see that acrylics are selling just as well - even amongst oils in a gallery setting. We're artists, not manufacturers who produce what's popular. So congrats. I admire you spunk!

    3. Thanks Lori! I just checked out your web site (at http://loriwords.com). Fantastic! Your realist work is very accomplished. Be sure to let me know when you have some of your new work posted. I'd love to see it.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. http://lwsimons.fineartstudioonline.com/works/1717018/sabino-canyon

    2. I love it Lori. It is a departure from your other paintings but very powerful. I predict you will have success with it. What I'm doing is similar in that I'm using harder edges and more graphic compositions. We'll see how it goes. Stay in touch!


Thanks for your comments!


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