Friday, August 19, 2016

Where I find my Inspiration

Untitled18" x 14", Oil on Panel

This still life piece has been sitting on my easel for about three weeks while I finished preparing for my show at Gallery-9.  I'm still considering changes I think would enhance the piece.  For instance, I've been considering adding a little more violet or bluish violet to background on the right.  Perhaps a little softening of the edge on the egg.  Maybe a bit of brightening on I'm otherwise pretty happy with this piece.

People sometimes ask me why I paint still life.  I've given this a lot of thought.  For one, I prefer to paint from life.  Cameras produce pictures that have very little in the way of life to them and lie horribly.  They blow out the lights and tend to make the shadows too dense.  Nothing beats the human eye.

But what inspires me? That's an important question.  This week, as part of an assignment in an art marketing course I'm taking, I was given some exercises to do to assist me in re-writing my artist's statement.  Now that's a touchy subject.  There are lots of coaches out there giving advice on this subject and I've read quite few of them. I had written my statement some time ago and have been pretty happy with it so I was resistant to this exercise, but this assignment brought up some things I hadn't actually pinpointed before.
My current statement talks about light being the predominant theme in my work. This is still true - as it is for many artists.  But that's what made me stop and think. What about light is it that I am trying to say? So I answered a bunch of questions about important events in my life and who or what incidents were pivotal in my life.  I found some interesting things.

In almost every case that I was writing about, I saw an image in my mind.  "So what?" you think. "Everyone does that." Well, yes and I'm a visual artist so for me it happens with every memory and every projected thought about the future.  But I came to realize that I wasn't just seeing the image, I was feeling something about it and in every case, the light in the image carried the emotion for me. 

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.  When I recall my childhood from about age three to six, I recall a lot of lonely afternoons at my Grandmother's house.  My father was dying of  Polycystic Kidney Disease and my mother had to spend most afternoons at the Veterans Hospital in the Bronx.  I was left at my Grandmother's house.  Some folks have many happy memories of their days with grandparents.  Not me.  I loved my grandmother but those were lonely days.  The images that came to me were of lying on her couch, bored and watching the late afternoon sun come in from the north facing windows.  It was a bit dim and it fell on an old clock that ticked away the hours until my mother would come to get me. That light felt sad to me.

Now I have a north facing window in my studio and I paint using its light, but it doesn't depress me.  Sometimes, though, if I'm feeling lonely or just a little sad over something, that particular quality of light will become the focus of my painting.  Other times, it's a more silvery or golden light I'm after that speaks about other emotions.  So it's the light that carries my message.

One more thing:  We live in a world that is fast and caters to instant gratification.  My work is about slowing down and taking the time to look at things - the light on an object, the patina on a silver chalice that tells us this piece is old and has a history.

So there you go.  That's why I paint still life -- and other subjects as well.  Because the light carries meaning and emotion for me and I want to share that with you.  Be well.  And if you think of a name for this piece, go ahead and post it here.  I'd love some feedback!


Jim Serrett said...

We all my say it’s about the light, but what the light means to each of us is a little different. The composition looks like a group waiting for someone to get up or join them? How about, “Not Today” or “Some Other Time”. Remember you asked. Great post...

Susan Martin Spar said...

Thanks for your comment Jim. I'll definitely take that suggestion under consideration.