Surfing the internet entices surreptitious visits to other artists’ studios. The subject of each artists’ work varies; we’ve all seen magnificently executed art featuring everything from a bucket of fish heads to an artfully arranged pile of tangled nude figures. Why an artist choses to paint or draw a particular subject is their secret, but I presume (I know, that’s a dangerous practice) that what we find enticing to render in the studio has something to do with our personal histories.
This is my grandmother Margery and one of her dogs (I think this was Gigi, or maybe Buttons, but it was before my time). My maternal grandparents were from England and Canada, and they met when they were teenage immigrés working in a Connecticut textile factory. Margery loved flowers, so they saved enough to buy a little flower shop in town, and that transition from factory to flower shop launched a deeper love affair with plants, gardening and flowers. Their affinity, in turn, swayed most of my family to take up gardening; some of them reluctantly, and late in life, but there’s dirt under nails and rose-thorn scratches on the arms of everyone I’m related to from this branch on my family tree.
It may be very old fashioned to paint flowers, since it’s been done & done for centuries, but I *really* like flowers. They remind me of Margery and Al, and their orchid shed, and their hundreds of varieties of day lilies, and their wildly profuse Schlumbergera. They are both gone now, but I think of them every time one of the plants they gave me sprouts a new shoot, or looks at me and shimmers in an enticingly paintable way.
- Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. ~Henry Ward Beecher
Have you painted subjects that are tucked into your personal history, like Frida Kahlo, or Vincent Van Gogh or Andrew Wyeth? It may be over done to paint birds, or florals, but if that’s what draws you into the studio and compels you to pick up a brush or a pencil, I think it’s wise to go with those fleeting urges. Painting exclusively what you think your patrons will buy is fine too, but that art can have a contrived feeling; sometimes, our intensions peek through the mark making. The adage “paint what you love” is old advise, and any memorable saying cited from art history’s wise, old experience is worth pondering as a credible observation. So, what do you paint, and why? Are your subjects steeped in nostalgia? Do you prefer political commentary, or word-art, or faces, or mariner scenes? What speaks to you? Leave a comment and let us hear from you.
We say, correctly, that every child has a right to food and shelter, to education, to medical treatment, and so on. We must understand that every child has a right to the experience of culture. We must fully understand that without stories and poems and pictures and music, children will starve.