Arts & Activities  
      May Student Page      

      Concept, Composition, Confidence, Contrast, Color Harmony, Character, Courage      
      By Dan Bartges      
      Assignment 9 In A Series Of 10: Character (Style)      

This month's chapter is entitled "Character," because your best art is an expression of your own unique thoughts, feelings, values and interests—in other words, your character. What, why and how you paint will eventually combine together as your artistic style. So in a way, developing your painting style is also an adventure in self-discovery.

Throughout the school year, we're exploring seven key ingredients in successful paintings and showing you how to use them in your artwork. So welcome aboard! As our voyage continues to unfold, you'll begin to see big improvements in your own artwork.

Each month, simply read about the paintings featured on this Web page. Next, print out the "Quiz Me!" sheet, write in your answers to three short questions, then hand the sheet in to your art teacher. (The correct answers will be shared with you on the next month's Student Page.)

      CHARACTER (STYLE)      

What is artistic style? Why is it important? And how can you develop your own unique style of painting?

Someone once wrote that style combines an artist's choices of medium, technique and subject matter. That's true, but more importantly, style should convey your own unique attitudes and feelings about your subject matter and about the world around you. Here's what some well-known artists have said on the topic:

"Paint a little less of the facts and a little more of the spirit. Paint more with feeling than with thought [because] when intellect comes in, art goes out."
–Harvey Dunn (American; 1884–1952)

"With a paintbrush, I could make the whole world feel what I have seen."
–Eugene Delacroix (French; 1798–1863)

"I long ago came to the conclusion that, even if I could put down accurately [in paint] the thing I saw and enjoyed, it would not give the observer the kind of feeling it gave me. I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at, not copy it."
–Georgia O'Keeffe (American; 1887–1986)

How can you develop your own individual style? One way is to expose your mind to a great variety of styles by looking at paintings in books, magazines, galleries and museums, decide what type(s) of paintings you like the most, and then consider why they appeal to you.

Next, select two to three of those paintings and, from a photo or from Internet images, take the time to paint them yourself. This will give you a much better sense of how it feels to paint like that. Do you like the sensation? Does it feel like you? If so, then you are on the right track toward developing your own variation of that style of painting.
And remember: you don't have to stick with just one style of painting. Your style can and probably will change. In fact, almost all famous painters altered their artistic styles as they matured as individuals.

Following are some examples of various artistic styles.

      Childe Hassam (American; 1859–1935). The South Ledges, Appledore, 1913. Oil on canvas; 34.25" x 36.125". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of John Gellatly.
>> Click Here << To View Painting Larger
      Abbott Handerson Thayer (American; 1949–1921). Roses, 1890. Oil; 22.375" x 31.375". Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly.
>> Click Here << To View Painting Larger
      Loïs Mailou Jones (American; 1905–1998). Les Fetiches, 1938. Oil on linen; 25.5" x 21.25". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Museum purchase made possible by Mrs. Norvin H. Green, Dr. R. Harlan and Francis Musgrave.
>> Click Here << To View Painting Larger
      Edward Hopper (American; 1882–1967). Cape Cod Morning, 1950. Oil on canvas; 34.125" x 40.25". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation.
>> Click Here << To View Painting Larger
      Robert Henri (American; 1865–1929). Cumulus Clouds, East River, 1901–02. Oil on canvas; 25.75" x 32". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Mrs. Daniel Fraad in memory of her husband.
>> Click Here << To View Painting Larger
      Georgia O'Keeffe (American; 1887–1986). Only One, 1959. Oil on canvas; 36 x 30.125". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.      
      Helen Frankenthaler (American; 1928–2011). Small's Paradise, 1964. Acrylic on canvas; 100" x 93.625". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of George L. Erion.      
      MUSEUM CONNECTION You've taken a look at Edward Hopper's painting Cape Cod Morning from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  Did you know he also made a painting called Cape Cod Evening?  Think about how an artist might approach painting the same place under different conditions, taking into consideration variables such as light, weather or time of day, while still capturing the character of a particular place. To learn more about the artist and his work, visit "Edward Hopper's Scrapbook," Smithsonian American Art Museum's online resource about the places and people Edward Hopper painted:
      QUIZ ME!
Click here to download May Quiz Me! document
      Author: A full-time artist since 1996, Dan Bartges is the author of the book, "Color Is Everything," and two books on sports, "Winter Olympics Made Simple" and "Spectator Sports Made Simple." Visit his website at      

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