Posts Tagged ‘selecting painting subjects’

Subject Selection

Monday, August 15th, 2016

The question for today’s blog poses an even more challenging exploration than the question of medium, discussed in my previous entry.

Why do I select the subject matter I do?   And how does that relate to who I am?  The truth is that I am drawn to such a wide variety of subject matter that it’s difficult to find the commonalities that will help me answer that question.

My personality is such that I like people to get to the point.  So I try to get to the point, myself.  And it holds true for painting, too, which is probably why my work tends to retain a certain degree of realism, concentrating on the focal area and merely suggesting, to varying degrees, the supporting information.  Fun and innovation are fine, but I try to be as considerate of my viewers as I want others to be of me, incorporating fun that my viewers can relate to and enjoy along with me.

What interests me in a subject?  I’m drawn to subjects that allude to universality more than specifics and that trigger the viewer’s imagination.  I like to use landscapes that, though usually of real places from my own life experience, may suggest similar locales from the viewer’s personal or vicarious experiences—allowing an armchair traveler, for instance, to liken it to something he or she has read about, even if not having experienced something similar in person.

Winter Point (#160711-o)

Winter Point (#160711-o)

I like to depict a sense of timelessness or indications of passing time more than modernity.  Graceful, organic lines appeal to me more than architectural angularity.

When considering light, I look for translucence, side-lit and back-lit subjects, or a glow of color that enlivens an otherwise unexceptional subject.   And I like the “language” and added dimensionality of reflections.

Gulf Beach (#150206-w)

Gulf Beach (#150206-w)

When my subjects are people or animals, I look for the gesture—a sense of action or dynamic tension that suggests the figure’s unique identity, what the subject is doing, or something about the subject’s character or personality.  In faces, I look for something interesting or characteristic in proportions, features, or expression that will help to define the subject for the viewer—more than the eye alone might normally notice.

Bailey (#081201-w)

Bailey (#081201-w)

To me, these things are beautiful and worth drawing attention to, and I want to express their value for my viewers’ consideration and appreciation.

A Matter of Perspective

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

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.

130702 Spiral Stair

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.