“Originality is a matter of perception, depending on who?s viewing the work,” Dean Mitchell says. “There?s really no such thing as originality. No one really created a style. That?s just craziness. That?s a form of commercialization to elevate one artist over another in terms of the marketplace. If you look at a lot of Impressionists, van Gogh?s stuff was heavily influenced by the Japanese woodcuts. So where does originality come into it?”
East Point Dock (watercolor, 15×22)
Perhaps the greatest stumbling block on the path of artistic self-discovery comes at the outset, when you give yourself license to be who you really are. Attitude is key here. As Mitchell points out, most of us want acceptance, whether it be from galleries or other artists. And being yourself may mean not doing exactly what others expect. A little natural rebellious streak is invaluable. “You shouldn?t let anybody deter you,” he says. “There may be a lot of people coming at you?galleries, critics, your other artist friends?saying ‘Oh, I don?t really like that.’ Well, my feeling is that you?re not supposed to like everything I do. I don?t like everything I do.”
If you want your artistic experiments to be meaningful, you?ve got to master the basics. And in the early stages, that can mean spending some time copying the works of others. “There?s nothing wrong with mimicking others’ work,” Mitchell says. “Picasso did it. Most of the great artists learned that way. You can learn a certain level of skill and technique. But that?s basically all you?re going to learn, because you?re not bringing anything to the table. If you admire somebody, that?s fine. But at some point you have to put all that stuff away, and you sort of emerge from it.”
Common Dignity (acrylic, 11×16)
“I want my work to be recognizable to people who don?t know anything about art,” Mitchell says. “I grew up with a grandmother who had a fourth grade education and didn?t know anything about art. And I grew up around a lot of people in the South?it was a very rural area?art was not something that was accessible in the sense of understanding and really grasping it. So I always wanted my work to be able to communicate to the common man, no matter what it was.”
Pam Ingalls-Cox‘s education in art began early. She first studied with her father, Richard Ingalls, who created the Art Department at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. She continued at the Academia Delle Belle Arte in Florence, Italy, in 1977, then returned home to earn her bachelor of arts degree from Gonzaga University in 1979. Later she apprenticed under Russian Impressionist, Ron Lukas. She has studied more recently with Richard Schmid and Burton Silverman, and has exhibited in more than 125 national and international juried art shows, where she’s won more than 60 prizes. Her work can be found in collections throughout the world. Currently living on Vashon Island, Washington, Ingalls-Cox is represented by a number of galleries, including Isis on First (Seattle, Washington), Merrill-Johnson Gallery (Denver, Colorado), Long Gallery (Scottsdale, Arizona), CODA Gallery (Park City, Utah) and Southwest Contemporary Galleries (Santa Fe, New Mexico). To see more of her artwork, visit her Web site at www.ingalls-cox.com.