Making your mark

Shirley Trevenna talks about how important it is to develop your own distinctive marks. It’s what distinguishes your work from every other artist. What makes your work unique? What is it about your work that conveys your distinct ideas?

Paper petals (watercolour detail)
Paper petals (watercolour detail)

It takes a while to develop a style. Sometimes it has felt as if this aspect of my work would never emerge. But in time, every artist develops something of a style – even if it’s not a conscious one. If you paint enough, your way of laying pigment on paper will start to become apparent.

I prefer to think about my mark-making style. To make it something I experiment with and develop. Every time something happens on the paper that thrills me, I think about how it happened, and whether I want to incorporate that aspect in my work in future.

One of the methods I’ve found quite useful is to tackle a subject using a number of different palettes, styles and papers. Invariably one will stand out from the others, or something will make me do something different. In this instance, I’ve chosen a glorious photograph of poppies taken in our garden. I’ve used sections of the photo in many different paintings. This time, I worked on Arches smooth and added a few layers of glaze. The final details have been added with the point of a sharpened stick, used to drag the dark background into the poppy petals to emphasise the papery texture of the petals.

I love the freedom and slight randomness of the pigment marks on the paper, combined with the little granulations and the meandering stick marks. They all combine to give this painting an organic feeling – each poppy is a little different, and each has its own character. Will do more of this.

Here’s a photograph of the full painting:

Paper petals (watercolour 29 x 19)
Paper petals (watercolour 29 x 19)

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7 thoughts on “Making your mark

  1. I am also developing a style Vandy… some people do say they recognise my work but I think it is still developing though am getting there. I think we maybe also instinctively favour certain colours and combinations even though we may not be aware.. something I am trying to overcome… I know which combinations and colours I like but feel I need to step outside and sometimes take risks and chances. I like your idea to use different palettes, styles (though not sure I can paint in a variety of styles) and papers to see which works the best… also helps give you knowledge of the subject without getting too bored with painting the same thing over and over… nice post, thought provoking and learned something!!

    1. Thanks very much, Judith.

      The issue of getting bored with the subject when repeating it is one I’m very aware of. I have a low threshold for that. What I tend to do is tackle 3 or 4 sketches or paintings, then leave that subject for a while and come back to it much later (sometimes months later)

      It is very interesting to look back on previous works on the same subject. You can start to see a real progression of style.

  2. This resonated loud and clear to me Vandy. Trying different techniques to find who we are as artists is so important. How can we truely say we have found ourselves and our style if we haven’t tried all the many facets that watercolour has? Love the delicacy you achieved in the petals.

  3. Hi Vandy,
    What a great post! I like your idea of painting a subject multiple times, using different palettes and papers. I’m going to try it.

  4. Vandy – love those poppies. You are so right in time we all hope to have something that someone recognizes as our own touch. You are certainly developing yours. Thanks also for stopping by and leaving wonderful comments – hope you can see your family more often. Take care and have a great week.

  5. Thank you all for your comments. Will be spending a bit more studio time this weekend so more time to experiment with techniques and style.

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