Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pick a Different Way of Working

Your Signature Style and Your Secret Style

Many artists have a signature style or favorite subject for which they are well known. Rarely is it the case, however, that the acclaimed body of work is the only type of artwork these artists produce. Dawn Emerson, Cuong Nguyen and Andrew McDermott are three artists who are connected to a favorite genre or subject, or identifiable style. But they also have a secret style or genre that appeals to them. We asked them about this “other work” that they do. Each explains how working differently, whether regularly or only on occasion, impacts their creative output overall.

Burly Men and Lovely Fruit

Cuong Nguyen is celebrated for portraits like John (seen below) that demonstrate his talent for contemporary realism. But he also paints an occasional still life. He explains that working differently now and then—in his case, in another genre—is just good exercise. It stretches his creativity and keeping his mind nimble so that he doesn’t lose his edge when practicing in his signature style.

“I don’t do a lot of still life painting, but I do enjoy it,” he says. “It’s great for me to refresh my mind, to search for new concepts and to challenge myself with new ideas.”


John (pastel) by Cuong Nguyen typifies the artist’s contemporary portraiture, for which he is well known. Article contributions by Anne Hevener.

Lemon-pastel-John (pastel) by Cuong Nguyen-working-differently

Lemon (pastel) by Cuong Nguyen is an example of the artist’s still life painting, a genre he works in from time to time.

Cityscapes and the Human Body

Andrew McDermott has won much acclaim for moody urban scenes like IAPS Night Time (seen below) that capture the energy of city life. The artist has also been practicing life drawing consistently since college. In McDermott’s case, working differently strengthens his drawing skills. This is a foundation for all of his painting, figural or not.

“Figure drawing is a lifetime of study,” he says, “and it’s excellent for keeping up my visual skills. I would advise any budding artist to draw and paint from life as often as possible.”


Andrew McDermott’s pastel, IAPS Night Time, is representative of his celebrated urban landscape work.


Andrew McDermott practices life drawing on a regular basis which keeps his drawing skills sharp.

Land and Horse

The horse is a favorite subject for artist Dawn Emerson. The animal is well suited for her bold, expressive painting approach. But the artist also enjoys painting the landscape as a whole. Regardless of genre, her paintings range from loose but representational portrayals to pieces that teeter into abstraction.

Her process is a very physical one, “something like a dance,” Emerson says. “I want to pull the imagery out of the background, to layer up and scrape back down through the textures and color to reveal as well as construct.” Working in a spontaneous manner like this requires the artist to work on instinct and to be ready to problem solve. “Often times, it ends in failure or redirection,” Emerson admits. “I’ve learned to be OK with that.”


Dawn Emerson’s landscape River’s Edge (pastel) was painted four years ago, and illustrates a more representative style.


This pastel by Dawn Emerson shows how differently the artist can approach the landscape. Here, she takes the integration of horse with landscape to the point of figure ground reversal.

The Brightest Artists of Our Day

These three contemporary artists are leaders in the New Realism movement that has been fueling over the last several years. If you want to learn more about the movers and the shakers of this artful generation and situate your unique vision in this context, explore the digital edition of New Realism today! Enjoy!


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