Flexible, not fossilized

Fossilized trilobites and ferns,
Alison C. Dibble photo

August 2020

In making art, it could be simpler and easier to use the same approach over and over. Just follow the known, comfortable path. For instance, I think of a favorite way I could start a painting. I could tone the canvas with a burnt orange color and then sketch a few lines on there to get the composition set up. When I apply a few strokes of pale blue then immediately I have an exciting contrast, an intense expression. Whatever my subject might be, that painting will resemble others that I started the same way. If I kept doing that, this could be my style. “Hey, I know who painted that! That has to be an Alison Dibble painting!” There’s nothing wrong with having a recognizable style, though that isn’t my objective. Nor is it my goal to make the same painting repeatedly. That’s what I mean by “fossilized” . . . favoring a same way of doing things. Beautiful though the trilobites are, and much as I enjoy studying fossils, I don’t want to be one.

Instead I feel called to keep stepping out of my comfort zone. I want to try to find a new way to express myself, reinvent myself. I’m not preoccupied with the esoteric question, “Is this my style?”. I think I don’t care about my style right now (but I’ll get back to you on that). Artist Annie Coan told me I could even consider letting other people figure out what my style is, and I like that! (Good luck to those people.) Artist Frank Sullivan thinks the question of style is not something to dwell on, just do the work.

With the start of each new painting, I want to embark on an adventure, make something that will surprise me. Maybe I will like it, maybe not, but I will be bolder, and different than when I started, changed by the experience of exploring, and of departing from the easier, well-worn path. This is what makes art exciting for me, stepping into an unknown and finding something new.

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