Tuesday, 16 July 2013


A writer from the FASO website, in answer to a comment from elsewhere about the problems of creating an artistic style, went on to make an argument FOR the development of a particular style.  He said:

"call it artistic style or creative repetition... either way it helps an artist to gain renown for what he or she is doing. Developing an artistic style can help to set an artist apart from others... while also leaving room for overall artistic growth (it is not as if a style is developed over night!). That much has been proven throughout history. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against a more eclectic approach to creativity. I'm just pointing out that there is a historical / psychological basis for the dominance of artistic style / creative repetition. You, the artist, are not being 'less creative' if you adhere to a specific direction".

Well, I would like to add a small voice of caution by way of a true story.There is a UK artist called Mike Bernard.    He has developed a very contemporary, specific style, here is one of his works.  It is successful for him……..his works can be found in many galleries, and he has written books which have been extremely popular, explaining his technique, which includes all sorts of experimental methods including collage.

Harbour Cottages, Cornwall.

HOWEVER – and this is where it gets tricky.

He has a huge problem with another artist whose work is very, very similar - Mike says it is virtually identical in some instances.   I have looked at both their works;  I can see differences, but unfortunately also many, many similarities...it seems to me that this other painter has looked hard at Mike Bernard's work and done his very best to copy his style as closely as he can. Now I am sure many of us have looked very closely at the likes of Degas, Constable, Monet and others - so why not look closely at any artist - even a living one, and emulate that style? 

Well, a lot depends on how far you take it.    Mike says this other artist has been quite blatant about it, to the extent of even copying from Mike’s books and exhibition catalogues. And sadly, some of the more unscrupulous gallery owners who sell Mike’s works, are happily showing and selling this other artist's paintings – I presume because they are cheaper – despite knowing full well that they are so similar to Mike’s work that they could be mistaken for his work... certainly to the untutored eye of a potential customer.  Mike has tried to ignore it over the years, hoping that the man would eventually develop his own style and ideas.  Unfortunately, this has not been the case. If Mike changes his subject matter, to try something new - so does this other chap, he behaves like a "stalker", to quote Mike.  The important point is...........it is clearly now having quite a severe impact on Mike's peace of mind AND his sales. 

This is NOT the same as copying the style of a master from the past, who cannot be directly affected.  If a living artist copies the style, or work of another living artist, and as a result affects that artist's livelihood, that is simply out of order.

MORAL OF THE STORY..............

Sometimes, setting out to develop a particular and recognisable style can be dangerous, particularly if it is a style which lends itself to copycat works.

I think we all paint with a particular kind of “hand”.  I did not set out to create a “style” of any kind, but people say that they can recognise my works when they see them. Yet even I find that people sometimes copy my works – I had a recent experience of this – but in today’s world of internet images being so easy to download, it is almost impossible to prevent copying. 

My first painting tutor, who was incredibly helpful in class, nevertheless would NEVER take us into her studio to share her painting secrets.  I, on the other hand,  tend to be very open about my approach to painting, happily sharing all my processes and ideas with others, thro teaching and in my books.  Given Mike's experience, I am now beginning to think my tutor was not so daft...............


  1. Very helpful posting, Jackie. There are also other dangers involved, I think, with developing a distinctive style. I had a friend who was a very successful painter in Seattle. He showed his work at prestigious galleries, which sold out every new painting on opening nights. After so many years, my friend grew tired of painting the same old scenes, and decided to shift his work a bit to a new subject matter. It was beautiful, inspired, and different. The gallery owners threatened to drop him if he didn't revert back to the old style. Collectors wouldn't buy his new works, as they were afraid they would no longer be recognized as his. It was very traumatic for him, and a huge lesson for me as an artist!

  2. Hi Jackie! I don't know why I haven't been back to visit your blog in so long, but I am glad to see the work and discussions you have been having.

    That is one of the bad things about having a distinctive style...it just cries out to be copied...and someone will do it. Most artists can do nothing about it, which is really sad.

    I have enjoyed seeing your recent work and loved your story about traveling to Sri Lanka!!! I will have to make sure I remember to come back on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing your work and your thoughts.


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