Here is a section of water as painted by three different artists. Can you name them?
(Addendum: "Florante" guessed it: Joaquin Sorolla, Anders Zorn, and John Singer Sargent)
The fact that many of you can identify them—even if you haven’t seen these specific paintings—is proof that we cannot escape our own handwriting. But it’s not just the “mark-making” at work here. Nor it it about style. It’s the seeing, the understanding, that separates each of these artists.
While each of these painters was a sensitive and close observer, each captured different qualities of water’s infinitely variable and elusive nature. The one on the left is interested in the upward-facing crescent shapes of the wavelets. The one in the middle features the soft transitions of the central ripples in contrast to the hard transitions and arabesques of the reflections. The one on the right is fascinated by the riot of color that shows up in illuminated shallow water, and the simultaneous transparency and reflectivity.
Even if these artists were standing side by side earnestly trying to accurately capture the same exact view, you’d still be able to pick out each individual. That’s why I believe it’s mistaken to believe that the pursuit of realism necessarily leads to sameness. Those who describe realism as slavish imitation miss this point. One artist’s paintings can be true to nature but emphasize different aspects of visual truth compared to another artist. The way you paint is a record of how you see.
Related GJ post: Reflections of Masts on Rippled Water.
Color in Mountain Streams