I recently had a dozen of my paintings at the city wide Gallery Night in Madison at Plymouth Congregational UCC. As usual, I was a little surprised by the paintings that got the most reaction. In fact, the audience taught me a little about my own paintings.
In general, paintings that garner the most reactions can be a little unexpected. They may be last minute additions to the show or ones that I wavered about displaying. Finding out why these artworks were favored was even more interesting.
Certainly everyone has their own preferences about what kind of art that they like. But when there starts to be a consensus, it is time to take notice.
Why artists don’t always like their own work
Now I know that a big part of when I have misgivings about a painting is when I struggle in its creation. Sometimes a painting is difficult to get right or needs a number of revisions. This may create a negative association in my brain with that painting. I know where the “mistakes” are.
It’s like when you paint the walls of a room and know you missed a small spot or the line between the wall and ceiling is uneven. Since you did it and know about it, it is hard not to see that spot. Your eyes go right to the mistake. However, no one else mentions it or can even find it. But it continues to bother you for a while.
The same thing happens with art work. I struggled. I gave up on the painting. I rescued it. I was convinced that everyone can see the where I “goofed”.
Seeing it Again
But if I put a painting away, some months later, I like it better. Perhaps I have forgotten the “mistake” or forgotten the struggle. It may even become one of my favorites. I am able to see it with new eyes.
Your audience can tell you what you don’t see
Watching and listening to others view your art is literally seeing it through someone else’s eyes. Although everyone has their preferences in art, there is often a pattern and a clear “winners” in a show. When I talk with these people, I gain a new perspective into my art and what resonates with people.
It is rewarding to see people connect with a paintings and encourages me to try to duplicate those aspects that draw attention.
A Specific Example
Here is one such painting: The Beauty of Becoming.
In some ways, this is a static still life done in browns – it does not appear to be a candidate for excitement. Yet a lot of people were drawn to it.
It brought back memories of places or people: A grandmother or other relative’s house.
It evokes a time when people took care to decorate areas of their home, when the feeling of a place was as important as its function.
People were also attracted to the strong line of shadow and either area of flowers. There are enough interesting areas to keep the viewer entertained. And although I really do like this piece, I was surprised by the strong reaction by very many people.
On the other hand, that is exactly what I am trying to do, to create stories and connections with art. A painting of inanimate objects brings back warm memories of a beloved grandmother or nostalgia for a time seemingly lost.
The rich interpretation of this painting did not occur to me until after talking to people at the show.
The overall reaction was positive enough that the church asked if they could keep the paintings up for another month!
Any comments? Please leave them below. Feel free to forward this to anyone who might be interested.
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