Why I think Van Gogh is laughing now

In a competitive creative industry, art style is a critical issue faced by growing amateur and professional artists.

I have this crazy feeling that Vincent Van Gogh is now laughing in his grave because a) I still have no idea what my art style is, and b) I have no idea when I will magically realize what it is.

See, back in college when I was studying art, I have always claimed to like Van Gogh’s works and style. I idolized them to the point of imitation: Starry Night on my Physics notebook, Sunflowers on the other. His are distinct and will stand out in a room full of paintings.

I wanted what he could do. But as years passed, seeking for that elusive style of my own has become pointless. Throwing papers after papers, shifting from one style to another thinking maybe you’re just like him: unnoticed at first. I may have forgotten all about it until I started writing this. Still, I am optimistic that I could smudge Van Gogh’s snickering face from my imagination.

Come to think of it, art style is one of the most overused topics when you’re an artist (or in my case, trying to be) because that’s the baby step for everyone. I bet nobody even finishes art school without hearing or debating about it. The subject of having your own style has been looming long before Salvador Dali and his paintings of melting objects, and long before William Shakespeare started inventing words to express what he wanted to say. And like those classic artists, style is timeless and relevant.

It is also what makes your art different from others. It’s you all over your work, and you know well no one can claim it. It’s like a piece of pie that you licked to demonstrate ownership. Your saliva is all over and no one else can say that it’s not yours (or maybe something less gross).

What I admire the most is how art styles eventually morphs into the artist’s voice to communicate to the audience. It’s a voice that helps them tell what the concept fails to say, what exactly they want to say, and why. Why are Wes Anderson’s film shots in symmetrical composition? Or why are Stanley Kubrick’s tracking shots in films so complicated?

“When you see a particular style, you immediately connect it with a name and not the other way around.”

Sometimes, as I believe, it’s a part of them they unconsciously left in their work.  Maybe in an alternate universe, where Anderson and I could sit together and discuss his films over tea, I would confirm if this is maybe true. Right now, I’m comforted with the idea that they leave marks to own their works. And you know, copyright issues.

For these people, they have successfully made their style their signature. When you see a particular style, you immediately connect it with a name and not the other way around. Once, I remember, I wanted to have a photo of me with symmetrical compositions around the framing, but I couldn’t explain it to the person who would take my photo. Mentioning Wes Anderson’s name did the trick and made explaining a lot easier.

Even if your interest is not leaning towards indie films, or you haven’t seen either The Grand Budapest Hotel or The Royal Tenenbaums, you can always associate Anderson’s name to symmetry and pops of colors. It’s his well-known trademark – This is what I want, a signature of my own without writing my name.

I like to think that I’m in no rush to find my own style. That it’s here with me, and I just need to look for a way to put it on paper. And maybe, you’re just like me who feels she has this great artist hovering at her back, silently judging her.

In all of that, I hope in this note, a reader hears my writing voice, the same writing voice I have always used — and read this as if I never left writing at all.

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Elaine Catindig is editor-at-large and columnist of Doodle Arts. She has been involved in the disruptive and transformative creative revolution of cross-media advertising. A long time blogger and writer, Elaine has written for different publications and other local independent magazines. Follow her art footprints, @elainecatindig.
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