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Style and Technique

Style and Technique.  The manner and method of presenting a creative object. Style is the manner in which the object or any part of it is displayed, often done repeatedly on several objects until this becomes a mannerism of the artist. Technique is the method in which some creative action is accomplished. Such style and techniques are very personal, each artist must develop his own; he cannot have another artist hold his pen or brush or chisel or modeling tool, he must create on his own, develop his (or her) own style.

Mannerisms Influence Style

Artists often develop mannerisms – consciously or unconsciously – for any creative act that is repeated. This is evident in the numismatic and medallic field because of the ease of studying numerous pieces by the same artist. A medalist who prepares several dozen portraits, for example, will tend to do some portion of all portraits alike; an aspect of his design or modeling that is satisfactory to him on one portrait will be repeated on subsequent portraits. This is how a mannerism develops, and the repeated use of such mannerisms is said to be the artist's style.

American medallic sculptor Ralph Joseph Menconi prepared a mouth in a certain way; he did this in much the same manner on almost all portraits from the more than 600 medals in his life's work. The "Menconi mouth" was a mannerism, typical of his style. Medalist Victor David Brenner did the nude human foot in a certain way; hence the "Brenner foot." British medalist Paul Vincze most noted mannerism is his kneeling figure. When studying a large number of an artist's work such mannerisms can be ascertained. For art historians it is necessary to do such studies; occasionally they can attribute an unsigned work to a particular artist based on a study of style and mannerisms. The criteria for style is that: 1) it must be distinctive, and 2) it must be repeated.

Technique is an Acquired Skill

Once an artist learns of a method to prepare a certain portion of his work, and he is satisfied with this technique, he tends to repeat the same steps again in later works. This is part of the learning process and the total skillfulness of the artist; it is his knowhow and becomes a part of artistic repertory.

Artists learn such techniques from a variety of sources: from literature, from an associate, from a teacher, from the finished work of other artists (and masters!) and speculating on how it was done previously, or if he develops it on his own, perhaps by intuition, or just trial and error. He is seeking the methodology to solve the design or modeling task, the "how to" to proceed with the job at hand.

Once the artist meets and masters the problem, tries it and is satisfied with it, the technique becomes fixed in his mind and the skill remains his to be used again in the future when a similar design or modeling problem confronts him.

If the mannerism, style or technique is passed on to other artists, who in turn utilized the same style in their work, this may create a school of art. The collective work of a group with a similar style in some capacity may become recognized by art historians as an important artistic development.

Not all mannerisms are limited to individual artists. Manufacturing companies may have their mannerisms as well. The Lombardo Company of Canada issued all their medals with an oblique border. Medallic Art Company issued medals with an integral loop with a small bead on each side of the loop. It is often obvious what firm manufactured a medal by the style, finish and mannerisms evident on the piece (even if unsigned). 

References:                                                                                                                         

A11a {1950} Sutherland. Style in Coinage.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators

COMPILED AND WRITTEN BY D. WAYNE JOHNSON

Roger W. Burdette, Editor


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