Photo of mural in Louisiana, Missouri

What about Regional Art?

My hubby Al and I took a day trip to Louisiana, Missouri, which rests along the  banks of the Mississippi River about an hour’s drive from us. We had heard there were a lot of art galleries and had been planning to visit for years. Unfortunately, we had waited too long. Empty storefronts lined the downtown streets and “for sale” signs were posted everywhere. A reminder of how devastating the economy has been for small town America.

I was particularly saddened for all the area artists and artisans whose dreams were either crushed or redirected. We didn’t find a single gallery or studio. What we did find were beautiful historical mansions and murals. Lots and lots of murals. The artists had left their mark.

It got me thinking about regionalism. What does it mean to be a regional artist? The first thing that comes to mind is artists who paint local landscapes and historical scenes. This is true, but is that the whole story on regionalism? Then I thought about those who only show their work in their region. They would be regionalists in the purist form, but with technology as it is today, I quickly discounted the idea.

Then I hit upon the idea of palette. I’ve traveled throughout North America and discovered that each region’s nature has a different palette. Even the earth, void of foliage, is different colors in different regions. Compare the Southwest’s bleached sand and orange rocks to the Midwest’s rich deep brown dirt and limestone rocks. What if a regional artist paints within the palette of his/her region no matter the subject matter?

Would a portrait artist choose her palette subconsciously by her regional colors? What about a still life artist? It’s obvious a landscape artist would? But what if he was painting a landscape from a different region? How much influence does the local environment have on an artist’s choices? These are questions I’ve never considered before and are food for thought and debate.

I think I’m greatly influenced by my region’s colors. In my paintings I choose colors that  I’m comfortable with. Those that surround me and speak of home, of the Midwest. Looking back at paintings I’ve done from other regions, I see where I may have muted colors to appeal more to a Midwestern eye.

It’s not that you can’t find every color possible wherever you are in the world. For the most part, its more a matter of tones and tints, and which are the dominant colors in each region.

Well, these are just a few thoughts for the day as I get ready for a trip to Florida. I’ll have to visit the local galleries while I’m there to see what’s on their palettes. If you have any thoughts on the topic I’d love to hear. What about you? Do you think your palette is influenced by your surroundings?

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9 thoughts on “What about Regional Art?

  1. Vera Campbell

    I have never given this a thought . But it’s very true. I’ve seen paintings , landscapes, and when I thought about it you are so right on. Humm it’s very much food for thought.
    Thank you , Lynnette

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  2. clarajteixeira

    I think maybe particular animals and landscapes also make a regional artist. I’ve been noticing how a lot of Midwestern artists will stick with flowers that are grown in flower beds and landscapes such as lakes and ponds, coastal artists pick up on seascapes, dunes, cottages, and cliffs and are experts at painting seagulls and delicate sea creatures. In the North woods, where I live, woodland animals and native art is a big influence. Mountainous regions produce artists who thrill in the beauty of wildflowers that grow on their mountain slopes… I could go on and on… This gives me much food for thought and something to observe!

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    1. Lynnette Post author

      I agree, Clara. But I’ve been all over, taken reference photos on beaches, mountains and deserts. I find I still mute my colors to reflect my Midwest upbringing even if it is a mountain scene or seascape.

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  3. Kat Eppler Lysakowski

    When I use a book that was painted by someone else, I change things and use my own colors. I never read the instructions…EVER. As for my own work I guess I use my eyes to guide me. If something stands out where it shouldn’t,I leave it out ,tone it down or change the color.
    Kat Lysakowski

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    1. Lynnette Post author

      Kat, when you change colors for others’ designs do you choose colors that fit more with your regions’ asthetics? What has influenced your eye, the work of others or the colors predominant in your region?

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