What is style?

The other day, I was sharing some lively converstion with some patrons over coffee. One person who's been collecting mostly watercolors said "I wonder why I am seeing a different style in the florals you're doing now?"This is a question I've heard before, and it contains the word 'style'.

Style is a word which refers to how something appears, it's form or character.... a genre of work dedicated to a specific subject, like flowers! The flowers I paint now are mostly in oil with a very liberal use of color.When I paint using watercolor, the opposite happens...there's a lot of white showing and the colors are light and/or transparent. 

My style may also change according to who I am studying with. In the past, my teachers have had an influence on my style. The flowers that I learned to paint with Frank Webb are very similar in the style to the buildings that he taught me to paint....lots of white paper showing and light filled. While learning to paint with Frank, his mantra was: "Let the white work for you!"

John Singer Sargent painted like any other artist...everything and anything that was meaningful to him.  There was a time when he made an extremely lucrative career centered on painting portraits of the aristocracy. Huge, gorgeous paintings and he couldn't have been busier. A little later in his career he stopped painting these portraits, and went back to painting what he wanted to paint. If you look at the chronology of his works, you see that he painted in watercolor and oil and mixed media. He traveled extensively and kept journals.  Sargent's style was all over the place, and he was influenced by people like Monet, Velasquez and so many others. 

Staying flexible, while working with other artists, and trying on new hats, seeing new places, focusing on what needs to be focused on, asking myself what I really want and praying it all comes together is how I keep my "style" fresh.