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It’s not often that posing for a photo’ saves your life, but it was the case for this little guy. I know he looks adorable and is indeed beautiful, but the Lily Beetle is a destroyer of Lily worlds. Whole crops of graceful flowers can be laid waste by the mandibles of death that its grub yields. He may look elegant here in his vermilion red beetle form, but before he reaches adulthood, the grub looks a lot like something that might emanate from the nostrils of a person with a heavy cold. Very icky indeed.

Anyway, the idea behind this project was to produce a little consistency in my art, to make more than just one image on one subject. Generally I loath repetition, but sadly repetition is a way of life for an artist if you want to be acknowledged commercially. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to paint what really appeals to you when inspiration strikes, but galleries want to see that you’re able to pursue a theme, to create a series of images on a theme. Hence the three beetles. Literally three pieces on the same subject.

Consistency doesn’t have to mean painting the same thing multiple times. Some artists have done this and have made quite a name for themselves by doing so, but to me consistency means showing a flow of ideas. It means developing a theme, finding what methods and marks make you happy and incorporating them regularly in your work. They become your style.

Trying to manufacture a style is usually a bad idea. It’s unnatural and you’re not usually being true to yourself. If you’re forcing a style upon yourself, it almost certainly won’t stick and if it does, it probably won’t make you happy. No, if we truly “paint who we are”, then we need to paint in a way that brings us pleasure. Originality perhaps is a combination of the myriad of little things that we do that make us unique. It might be the way we prefer to light a subject, or our choice of colours and tones; it might be our line work, or the depth of our brush strokes. It might be depth of hues, signature colour choices, in fact any number of things and probably all of them together that make your work unique, that show your style.

“Imitation might be a good way to start to gain your confidence, but the chances are you’ll imitate someone’s work that you love because it resonates with you. Eventually you’ll want to adapt it, personalise it, add to it. The many and varied changes and adaptions you make, the methods that you settle in to will become – or rather show -part of you. Eventually you’ll paint more and more “who you are” and as you change, so your style will mature and change with you.

“Anyway, I digress, back to the beetles. Three of them. Oil on panel and painted in a series because doing what I felt uncomfortable doing was a learning and stretching experience and if you don’t stretch who you are you end up shrinking to become who you don’t want to be.