What is your style? (or Why the Dots?)

I hate brush strokes. That pretty much sums up my style. My first experiments in color involved watercolor markers. Their soft tips left lines where the marks overlapped, making darker lines as the layers of pigment bled into the paper, like the pattern vacuumed into a shag carpet. I hated the look. My solution was to use the markers in a circular motion. I would have preferred a uniform field of color, but wasn’t unhappy with the cloudy swirls that resulted. As it turned out, though, this swirly pattern was what people commented on the most.

Color has never come to me easy. I was terrified of color, at first, avoiding it like the plague for years. Those watercolor markers busted my prismatic cherry, but I wanted more, I wanted bigger and for that, I’d need paint. I choose acrylics for their simplicity and affordability. Space was tight in the one bedroom apartment I lived in at the time and it seemed a bit risky to keep the flammable supplies I would need for oil painting. Watercolors, with a brush, not the markers, have always been too uncontrollable for me and while I knew of gouache and tempera, I had no idea how they worked. So, acrylics it was, but I still needed to figure out what to do about the brush strokes.

My first few paintings were crap, but that’s no surprise. At that point I had failed so many times at so many things that failure is expected. I only have a few pieces from my “early days”, the rest long since thrown away or painted over. “Three Birds” is the first piece where my current style began to emerge. The paint was applied by being dabbed onto the surface, which didn’t quite achieve the look I wanted, but did eliminate several brushstrokes. I don’t really like this piece anymore, my style having developed and progressed in my opinion, but it does possess a raw energy that was the purpose of the piece. My wife likes it, and has insisted that I keep showing it, but I suspect that she may be a little biased.

My use of dots is slightly more developed in my piece, “Otherworldly”, but they are used sparingly, only for background. It wasn’t until “God of the Ants” that dots became a major aspect of my work. This is also the piece that made me realize that I like working big. At 47” X 29.5”, I can remember looking at the vast expanse to be filled and thinking, “Do I really want to do this? Do I really want to try to cover this with dots?” I didn’t keep track of every minute I spent working on this, but it was created over a three month span. I used to roam the neighborhood searching for painting surfaces, and was very excited to happen upon the sides of a shipping crate. “Otherworldly” is also on one of these sides. Unfortunately, in addition to its size, “God of the Ants” weighs in at a little over 18lbs, making it difficult to hang anywhere, so it has never been publicly shown.

Using layers of dots upon dots also provided a way for me to blend colors. Without any classes, any training in things such as color theory, I was clueless as to how to mix different colors on my palette. Not that I don’t still try, but my results are far from predictable. If nothing else, my use of dots gives my paintings a look that is distinctively mine. As much as I lament about how long it takes me to build a painting the way I do and how I sometimes wish that I had gone to art school, that I had been “trained” in some way, I am proud that I can own my style. I look forward to seeing how this style of mine will grow and develop over the years.

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