Early in my career, I was told that to be a successful artist, my work must have consistency, must be recognizably mine. This is problematic. Should an artist start a piece with this goal in mind? Should the object of making the piece be branding? What this advice implies is that there has to be a repetition of subject matter or perhaps a formulaic approach. I do not subscribe to this “art production.”
As I see it, the consistency is already there, ever-present qualities in the work, intrinsic to who I am, my process, my thinking, and, as such, unavoidable. There is no need for intentional recognizability, just as there is no need to wear a mask my face every morning so people know who I am. I might wear make up, change hair styles, grow old, botox my lips, but it’s always me.
So if subject matter and materials aren’t consistent how do people recognize my work? They become aware (i.e. educate themselves on) of my concerns as an artist: motion, color, composition, tension between forms, the anatomy of movement, and often visual narrative. Everything I make contains many or all of these aesthetics, no matter the medium–oil, drawing, medium, dyes on silk, embroidery; no matter the format–animation, painting, prayer shawls or flip books; no matter the purpose of the piece–illustration, fine art, wearable work, etc.; and no matter the subject matter–portraiture, landscape, skies, water, figures, or even baseball. I may start from a variety of “idea triggers.” but finally it all comes from the same aesthetic, woven into my psyche, my history, my perception, my memory, my vision of the world. That’s consistency enough. It’s the total of who I’m as an artist, my recognizable “mugshot,” my “signature.”.