Neo-Pointillism (or something)

July 16, 2007 at 2:56 pm 6 comments


One question I get asked about my art… a LOT… is

“What do you call this style?”

This question always makes me blanch a little. I know it’s an innocuous question, I should just answer simply and move on. But the answer is complicated. It gets into the core of why I do what I do and how important it is to me. So, I find it a difficult question to answer.

The quickie answer I’ve come up with is that my style is a form of “neo-pointillism”, only with bigger “dots” and looser rules about what colors I can use. True Pointillism was a very brief movement, mostly promulgated by Georges Seurat. It required the use of tiny dots of color that, like pixels on a TV screen, blur together into a recognizable image (such as people on a riverbank). My style starts with the general idea of Pointillism but loosens the rules… a lot. My dots are large brushstrokes, and they are often elongated and even sometimes curved. Strict Pointillism requires using only a very few colors, but I don’t restrict the number of colors I use. I start with a solid red background rather than a white canvas. And so on.

So, the short answer is that my paintings are sort of Pointillist, but different.

To me, the difference is vastly important. It’s my own unique twist on the idea. It’s what sets my work apart from everything else. I don’t like calling it anything other than “my style”. It’s different, and I want it to be different. That’s why I’m so proud of it!

So, I’d like to say “It’s just my style.”

But that’s not what they’re asking. They KNOW it’s my style. What they want to know is where it came from, what genre it belongs to, what historical (or political or philosophical) school of thought, what teacher, how it came to be. They want a category so it can be neatly filed away. They want to be able to say “Oh yes, that’s the Pointillist artist.”

I understand this need. I really do! I do exactly the same thing when I look at other artists’ paintings. When I look at a painting I classify it: it’s a plein-air landscape, or a realistic still-life, or an abstract, or whatever. We all like being able to categorize stuff this way. It’s efficient. It helps us remember stuff. It’s how our brains work. I do it too. So I understand why they ask.

And in fact, their asking is a compliment. A really big, serious compliment, if I can only get myself to see it that way. They’re asking because it’s NOT obvious what “category” my work falls into. That’s exactly what I’m aiming for! I’m trying to blur the boundary between abstract and realism, between a painting of “something” and a painting that’s abstract blobs of color on a canvas. When someone can’t categorize my work and needs to ask what it is, I should see this as a triumph. It worked! It’s so different, they don’t know what it is!

But it’s still hard for me to answer the question.


Entry filed under: Landscape, Painting, Pointillism.

Welcome! Art is like music


  • 1. deaner  |  April 16, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    I think you nailed it with neo-pointillism.
    Lovely work.

  • […] surprisingly, when you paint with dots and smallish slashes of almost-random color (as I do) the beginning stages of “real” painting don’t look like much. Almost random, […]

  • 3. Wayne Hosaka  |  June 22, 2009 at 7:30 am

    whatever you call “your style” I find it fascinating and inspiring.
    I am going to try it!
    I thoroughly enjoyed talking with you at the La Jolla art festival yesterday.
    You are a wonderful person!

  • 4. Alan Hogan  |  December 1, 2009 at 2:24 am

    Hi Barbara,
    I’ve been painting partly in a similiar style for a while now, not knowing exactly how to categorise it. I think the Neo-Pointillism tag is the closest I’ve found.
    It was nice to discover your work here, I think we have a few ideas in common about our art. I am also a bit curious as to why artists need to be ‘pigeon-holed’ to one particular style of painting. I guess it can sometimes benefit the artist, as it allows the public to relate more easily to his/hers work.
    ‘Enjoyed looking at your paintings, thank you!!

  • 5. “Bright Hills” mini painting « Barbara J Carter  |  December 17, 2012 at 11:34 am

    […] than “Topanga Mist”, this painting is still a simple composition that allows my neo-Pointillism to really shine. I had a lot of fun with the wild colors in this […]

  • 6. Using White « Barbara J Carter  |  December 17, 2012 at 11:34 am

    […] I use titanium white as the white color on my palette. Its opacity is particularly suited to my “neo-pointillist” style. […]

Barbara J Carter

I'm an artist. I make paintings with dots.

I work in acrylic paint, in a couple of distinct styles: landscapes and abstracts.

Native to California, I've lived elsewhere and only recently returned to my home state. I now live in Los Angeles.

I mostly show my art in outdoor festivals in California. I also occasionally show my work in art galleries or open studio events. You can see an up-to-date list of upcoming shows on my website (click here).

I invite you to sign up to receive my free email newsletter, in which I list my upcoming shows and talk about my latest work. I send it irregularly, a few times a year.

My links

My paintings

Follow me on Twitter: @barbarajcarter

Why I call my landscapes neo-Pointillist landscape paintings

A bunch of my abstract dot paintings

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Click here to receive my free email newsletter for up-to-date info on my shows, my art, and anything else that I'm up to. I send it out irregularly, a few times a year.

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