I’m not 100% classically trained. I’ve had many good art instructors who have taught me how to create shadows, make shapes with color, and balance negative and positive space. However, once I left their instruction I had to experiment a lot with my technique.
Through this experimentation I developed a style I like to call Squareism. It all started with my painting, Tree and Mountains. The picture was dark and the details weren’t clear. I started as usual with long visible brushstrokes for the background. Then I added the mountains and the clouds. I knew I didn’t want my tree to be black or grey, so I stepped back and studied my painting for quite a while. That day I decided to work on something else. I needed more time and I couldn’t solve my problems with that painting in that moment.
I thought about it and journaled about it at night. In my mind I saw a red tree. It was whimsical and would look bright against the background. You see, I don’t always like to paint what’s in front of me. I want to make my world more colorful.
The next day I went back to work and added layers of reds and blue. I had created the tree I saw in my mind, but I still needed leaves. What did these leaves look like? I couldn’t tell. The image was just too dark.
What I created was a cloud of purple and blue – not exactly what I was going for. Ok, what would look good with this tree? I decided on yellow and red leaves, like the ones that indicate that autumn has arrived. I had beautiful new brushes, but they weren’t quite right for the kind of leaves I was trying to make.
I dipped my flat brush into my yellow paint and made a short brush stroke, then another. Then I dipped it into the red paint and made some more. I stepped back and looked at what I had created. I liked it! It gave a certain amount of depth to the foliage that changed as I moved around my studio. Still, something was off-balance, so I added some squares around the tree where the soil would be. I made green and brown squares, but not too many.
At each one of my shows, those who see my work are surprised by my Squareism paintings. They resemble some post-impressionistic styles like pointillism, but they aren’t quite the same. I don’t get the same reaction from people who see this style in pictures because it doesn’t have the same effect. The cool thing about my Squareism technique is that your distance or angle from the painting can change the way the colors blend.
I knew I was onto something with this style and the fact that I had started it on a 40x30 inch canvas was liberating. I went to work finding pictures I had taken on my travels of interesting trees so I could incorporate them into my collection. I don’t always use Squareism in my paintings because it won’t always help me accomplish what I envision. Instead it’s more like a tool that I get to keep in my back pocket for another day.