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Workshop Frankensteins

I'm in a workshop right now, and had an interesting conversation with another artist who leads workshops about how participants emulate workshop leader's style and techniques. We artists are visual learners, and often copy the works, style, or techniques of other artists to learn how they get certain effects.

There is nothing wrong with this!

I often "try on" another artist's style, ideas, or techniques to see how they fit, but don't keep them. Instead I interpret them using my own style, or inner guidance. For example, I love Frederic Church's command of the skies, and how he painted clouds:

In visiting Church's home Olana, I discovered that he did many plein air studies of clouds including the one above, and often used them for his studio paintings.

I "tried on" his technique by actually visiting his home and painting the skies en plein air using some of his color palette (only in pastel)

Now you can clearly see the difference between his work and mine, but you can also see his influence. When you take a workshop, or copy another artist's work, or even stand where they once stood to paint, you show the influence of that artist in that work.

We are always influencing each other.

This is very apparent when you see works in a workshop. Some teachers are more influential than others, and ask that artists work a certain way in their class, like starting with middle values instead of darks, or within a certain time period, using a limited palette, etc. Some students are also more easily influenced than others.

We artists are often driven by results, and the desire to produce finished products. That desire can often run roughshod over the quiet little voice inside us that tells us what is our "style" and what isn't.

Workshop teachers refer to this as "Workshop Frankensteins" when new artists pick up "trees" from this artist, "skies" from that artist, Etc. and you can see the way these artists paintings look cobbled together.

These paintings are often formulaic and always similar; same trees, same skies, same waves. This can get repetitive and old quick. Especially for the artist. If you make a name for yourself doing Frankenstein paintings, then you are stuck doing that for the rest of your career.

As a teaching artist, I hope to inspire artists and encourage them to try new things, until that inner voice is loud and clear about what is and isn't your personal style. It's good to try things on, but try not to keep them if they are not truly you.

The most crucial thing about being an artist is being creative. Take what you learn from a class, workshop or exercise and interpret it through the brilliant prism that is you so that your art shines out in it's own uniquely beautiful way!

Catch me painting at Olana this summer in plein air workshop hosted by Wallkill River School on Aug. 7&9 to register email me at

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I would love to see some fruit art or a painting of a human using the Frankenstein technique. Each piece if fruit would be different depending on the inspiration from the original artist. Each ligament would correlate to the original artist technique. Give it kind of a picasso kind of feel.

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