Sometimes It’s Best to Ignore the “Experts”

3 Feb

When the Norwegian Artist studied art at the university, his professors urged him and all the rest of the students to “find your style, find your subject matter, and stick with that one thing. You need to be known for a certain size of work, a specific color palette, and one kind of subject matter.”

The Pataha by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art

When you’re 23 and your professors are in their 50s, it doesn’t occur to you to ask back,

“But you don’t actually show or sell your work yourself. What makes you think that this way of thinking works?”

When Steve became an illustrator, in order to put food on the family table, he quickly discovered that the ability to create wildly divergent subject matter in multiple color palettes embracing a spectrum of styles was not only an advantage to him as an artist — a great learning curve for increasing your skills — but also a requirement of the job. Twenty years of this enabled him to do a lot of experimentation and move forward in his understanding of various media and style.

As a fine artist, he enjoys painting representationalism with an impressionistic flair, but he does not insist that every painting be approached, or handled the same way: only thick paint, or only glazing, or only deep shadows, or only strong contrast — the subject matter, the size of the work, the mood of the piece dictate the other elements involved in bringing the scene that his artist’s eyes see to completion on canvas.

“Artists artificially limit themselves by this outdated — and probably never valid — marketing notion that they must be ‘known’ for a specific style or subject matter,” Steve says. “They’re not selling flash drives. And come to think of it, even flash drives are coming out in different forms — I saw one shaped like a bird that looked like a toy that a child would get in a fast food meal.”

Summer Breeze by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art

In the back of his mind, Steve has a half-dozen paintings ready to paint when he finishes the one he is presently painting, and the queue includes figurative, seascape, landscape, still life, with the final result being one of these, or none at all but something completely different, the choice being made, basically, by what he feels like doing.

“If an artist does not feel free to experiment,” Steve says, “how will he ever grow? How will he ever discover a technique that brings about an effect he has been searching for? Artists are humans, not machines, and the very nature of humans is that we explore, dare, push limits, and create.”

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3 Responses to “Sometimes It’s Best to Ignore the “Experts””

  1. Jennie February 3, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    What a lovely post! I completely agree!!! Jen 🙂

  2. Dianne Lanning February 4, 2012 at 3:04 am #

    I’m sure the professors were excellent art instructors. However, I find it amazing and more that they advised being a “One Trick Pony.” What happens when the world moves on? At this moment I can think of a number of artists who made a big splash with a certain “look” to their work, that later went out of fashion. You have to grow, try things. The Norwegian Artist learned a lot about painting and art when he mastered a variety of techniques.

    • middleagedplague February 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

      The older we get, the more we realize that it is crucial that the individual believe in himself enough to study, read, and analyze various sources, not relying upon any one to provide the full picture. For all that we talk about being an independent society, we place a lot of strictures upon true, independent thought.

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