I was asked recently to share with an art group on “how I paint from my imagination“.  I was a little curious as to why this would be a topic specifically asked of me. Then I realized that much of the work around me in the studio where I am currently working  is realistic in nature and very different from my own. The person inquiring commented, “That IS what you do, right?”


Work in progress for a series.

Well, I haven’t really thought about it much, but now that it has been pointed out to me… yes, I reckon that is what I predominantly do. Now, that it has been settled, HOW in the world do I explain how I paint from my head? It just seems to be part of who I am as an artist, which has led me to think about defining my artistic style more clearly.

It seems that much of my art is sparked by any one of these;  a deep concern, an impressionable experience, a recurring mental image, an intriguing analogy, a meaningful Scripture, or a heartfelt prayer. Once my mind is fixed on something, I begin to do a bit of research to better develop a concept from one of these platforms. Just because I paint from my imagination, doesn’t mean that I don’t spend ample time researching and preparing.  However, once I begin making marks, I work spontaneously, dialoguing and responding to what I see developing before me. Some of the time, I’m manipulating the medium to the desired outcome…other times the medium seems to be manipulating me, adding to my concept in ways I had not thought of initially.

I can’t say that I have ever consistently and clearly answered the question, “So, tell me, what is your art like?” Shouldn’t I have a better clue of how to define or at least describe my style? You go into art museums and they seem to know how exactly to classify artists’ work and greater movements they were contributing to. Is this practice in our era still necessary or are we beyond the labelling and defining? My curiosity of how to describe my own art trumps all these bigger questions and has me on a bit of a quest.

According to Rita Gilbert in her book, ‘Living With Art‘,

“Artistic style is the sum of constant, recurring or coherent traits identified with a certain individual or group.”

Alyson Stanfiel, an art business coach, breaks that down more simply by stating,

“Your style is a combination of the mediums, technique, and subject matter you choose… It’s that extra little thing you do to distinguish your work from that of other artists.

Having a style doesn’t mean you must produce the same work over and over again. It simply means that you have created work that others identify with you.”


Work in progress for a series.

I don’t know about you, but now I take better note of the recurring comments I receive in response to my work. Frequently, my work is recognized by its color palette and paint application. And, now that I have this new observation to add about me painting ‘imaginatively’, I am beginning to settle on the descriptive term ‘expressionistic’ more confidently. However, to make sure that I’m using this term correctly, I have done some definition research.

Expressionism: A style in which the artist seeks to express the inner world of emotion rather than external reality.

Diving in a bit, I’m resonating with the aims of expressionism which were in its historical age, and still are, “to express emotions through the use of vivid colors and strong, distorted lines, rather than capturing a likeness or reality… characterized by intense, violent, and non-naturalistic colors, painted in a textural manner.”

If you are interested in a quick art lesson:

Techniques of the Masters: How to Paint Like an Expressionist

As I wrestle with better understanding myself as an artist, I welcome you to do the same by considering the question Stanfiel poses to artists…

“What are YOU known for?”