Alit Coir A Mhadaidh by Julia Law
Alit Coir A Mhadaidh by Julia Law

Even though we are benefitting from such a diverse range of styles in today’s art scene, we are still drawn towards traditional paintings. We buy art to enhance our décor, we collect art that we enjoy looking at, but we also admire the traditional techniques and the effort invested by traditional artists into the weeks or months required for the completion of an artwork.

Traditional art is classic

One of the reasons why we keep going back to traditional art is because it never goes out of fashion. A landscape, a still life piece or a portrait depicted according to the traditional rules of composition and technique is always a winner when it comes to artistry and aesthetic merit. Like in fashion, trends come and go, but a classic piece will always be there to save the day. As for your home décor, a traditional painting hung on a wall will always give a cosy ambiance.

What is traditional art?

The definition of traditional art is very complex. On one level, we call traditional art any artwork that respects the traditional rules of composition. The colour, line, composition and rhythm of such a painting are intrinsically balanced; therefore we feel naturally drawn towards it.

Secondly, due to the diversity in today’s art scene, we can call traditional art anything that has not been digitally manipulated. However, this definition might be slightly too specific and not as widely accepted.

Tradition may also refer to folk art that is anonymous. Folk art is mostly decorative, using patterns to decorate objects and it is not intended to be art per se. However, some elements of folk art have influenced many artists through the decades, right up to the present.

Hazy Days by Sophie Penstone
Hazy Days by Sophie Penstone

Traditional art in modern times

We are all in agreement that traditional art has to respect the rules of composition and technique to be called as such. Even though the media that come to mind when we say traditional are oils or watercolours, many artists today are painting in acrylics or mixed media. They are also using some modern techniques like splashing and dripping which give their artworks a modern twist.

Sophie Penstone’s technique illustrates it suitably: “I start by laying down initial washes in watercolour that create a balance to the painting but also help create a sense of distance. By painting unconventionally with this medium on stretched, primed canvas allows the washes to be disturbed and worked into, should I wish.

Then, whilst making considered decisions about composition and colour, I overlay this background with acrylic ink taking advantage of its fluidity, intensity, vibrancy and transparent qualities. I make my mark with anything close to hand such as the end of a paint tube, a twig, piece of plastic or the end of a much loved brush. The ink is thrown, flicked and splattered onto the canvas. I enjoy the process of painting as much as the end results”.