What draws me to a given subject? It varies. Sometimes it’s an iconic scene, as with “Brugge Bridge,” which I wrote about last time. Other times I’m attracted by interesting lighting effects or an intriguing abstract quality of a design, as in “Spiral Stair” (shown below), viewed over the bannister of a narrow, multiple flight staircase in the B&B where we stayed in Brugge. Sometimes it’s recognizing an easily overlooked point of beauty within the shadow of a more iconic scene that draws my attention.
One of my traveling companions recently said, “Your paintings always make things look so much better than they do in real life.”
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then as an artist, I have the opportunity and privilege to show to others certain beauties that my eye recognizes. If I paint only the beauties that others already recognize, my hackneyed “insights” can be of little worth. The less recognizable those points are to others, the more valuable my artistic comments become.
So I try to keep a fresh outlook. Yes, there is certain nostalgic, historic, or commercial value in recording recognizable, often-painted icons. But artistically, I find it more satisfying to depict familiar subjects from an unfamiliar perspective. It’s all a matter of how you look at it. But more importantly, it’s largely a matter of how I, as an artist, can get other people to look at it.
What do you think? As a viewer, what attracts you to a painting? Is it the subject itself, or the artist’s treatment of it? Is it color, or design, patterns of light and dark? Or is it something else entirely? I’d love to hear your comments.