May 14, 2010
Show me the painting
7 10" watercolor
Have I mentioned I have a couple of private students? That’s a fact. When one of them recently showed up for his lesson with a single peony (not for me, but to paint), we had a little discussion. Too often, we artists are painting things, not paintings. I consider this illustration. I’m guilty of this too. This painting, for instance, I consider a fine illustration of Julian’s, home of preppy in Chapel Hill, but I don’t feel it makes a great painting. We should not let subject matter drive us. We should be driven by composition. I could write a book on this. In a similar vein, we don’t ask who wrote a classical music score; we ask who composed it.
There is, however, a market for illustration. Sometimes painting a storefront dead-on is about the only way to paint it. Again, this is when we are driven by subject matter. Composition is the first thing I take into consideration when I’ve decided what it is I’m going to paint. I try always to have my camera with me when I go out for plein air sessions. I take many photos, from many angles, and review them before I begin to paint. The playback mode offered by digital cameras is an excellent way to view one’s options. The strongest compositions can often be so unexpected.
In a nutshell, I’d rather viewers say, “What a wonderful painting!” than say “What a wonderful painting of Julian’s!”