The other day, I watched a new video on one of my favorite websites, Art Babble. This particular video was a discussion of Pierre-August Renoir’s painting, Moulin de la Galette, 1776. One part of the video talked about several aspects of how Renoir painted this painting.
The two people discussing the painting used the terms rapid brushwork, open brushwork, constant motion, use of light, loosening contours, and flattening space to describe the painting.
I thought they were talking about Renoir’s technique although the word technique was never used. Just so you’ll know, the video is primarily about how Renoir was one of the first to paint everyday life in Paris after the Franco-Prussian War of the early 1870s (and relates to my previous blog on Realism).
But then I thought, no, maybe they’re talking about Renoir’s style of painting.
Anyway, that got me to thinking (uh-oh) about what the commentators on the video were actually talking about, Renoir’s technique or his style?
First, I wanted to make sure I understood the two terms correctly as they apply to art.
Here’s a definition of technique I found on yourdictionary.com that sounds about right: the method of procedure (with reference to practical or formal details), or way of using basic skills, in rendering an artistic work or carrying out a scientific or mechanical operation.
A while back, I did a blog on discovering your artistic style, but it didn’t include a definition. So, here’s one I found at the freeonlinedictionary.com that seems to be a good fit: the combination of distinctive features of literary or artistic expression, execution, or performance characterizing a particular person, group, school, or era.
Well, I’m glad that’s settled. No, I’m confused. How exactly are they different? Let me see if I can figure this out and hone in on the meaning.
A technique is a method of procedure, or way, of using a skill (like painting).
A style is the distinctive features (that’s plural) that characterize a particular person (or his paintings).
Okay, so, when the commentators were talking about rapid brushwork and constant motion, they were talking about Renoir’s technique—right?
No wait, when they talked about Renoir’s use of light and open brushwork, and flattening space, they were talking about his style—right?
Which is it? Well, I actually think they were talking about both. They just didn’t articulate which was which in the video, and they probably weren’t even thinking about how they were using terms to describe both Renoir’s technique and style.
As they used to say in the corporate world, so what?
Well, I think you should learn and understand the difference between the two so you understand and can articulate both your technique and your style.
Know this. We, as painters, have both, and we should embrace them.