Quiz: For each line of paintings, choose the painting that was done by me.

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” by Barney

“ABC” by the Jackson Five

“Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash

Side by Side

The final day of the Jean Pederson workshop (back in May) my table mate, Chris Kondrat, arrived late to the workshop. We were just about to start the morning exercises, so to help out, I offered her my palette so she only had to grab a piece of paper and brush and get to work. The above paintings are a juxtaposition of three exercises we did that morning. After finishing, I asked Chris if I could take a photo of her paintings. I was fascinated that we could create such different paintings with the same inspiration and colors.

Quiz Answer: Tara painted B, A, A; Chris painted A, B, B.

In June and July, Sandra Pearce and I had a show together at Keizer City Hall.

As our paintings went up, Sandra and I reminisced about the various paintings that had started with us painting together and how they had turned out so different. We’ve painted the Willamette Vally Lavender Festival together, as well as Sauvie Island and the Hillsboro Plein Air. And not a single time have our paintings looked anything alike. If she looked east, I looked west. If she used blue, I used orange. It wasn’t that we were trying to be different, we just are.

Difference versus style

Style is a big deal in art circles. One of the more common things I hear in workshops is artists saying they want to work in a “more personal style.” I’ve said it. We are searching for something that says “this is by me”. Even the most casual art aficionado can tell the difference between a Georgia O’Keeffe and a Gustav Klimt.

The paintings above are both, purportedly, about trees. Why are they so different? The artist.

Obviously, art is extremely subjective matter. But that does not stop us from saying something is “good” or “bad.” Artists are notoriously hard on themselves, often engaging in evaluation far beyond a simple critique by a friend or opinion from a teacher.

But lately I’ve been wondering if the simple act of placing paint on paper is enough to claim a style. Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about forgery and other art crimes. In high-end art, there is this thing called “connoisseurship” where experts who study a particular painter give an opinion about its authenticity. The first episode of “Fake or Fortune?” is particularly informative on this subject. “Real Fake” about Elmyr de Hory is also eye opening. “Made You Look” about the Knoedler Gallery will challenge your ideas about what even makes art valuable.

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post, “Learning to Paint Like Tara Choate“, where I talked about style and voice. It’s a subject still on my mind. But maybe I can ease up about having a personal style; I think the paintings from the quiz showcase above demonstrate differences that are very real, if difficult to put into words.