What is your painting about? When you answer that question, your reply should be more than just stating the subject matter. For example, the painting above is not about flowers, it’s about fluid forms that create graceful movement. In other words, the way the paint is applied to the paper is as important, if not more so, than the subject itself. Think about it, I could have used any number of subjects–figures, animals, trees, etc.–to create the same feeling. In my work, the subject and its literal function are secondary to its role as a design element in a painting. I use my subjects purely as departure points to create something new, because that is what I typically find most interesting about them. I love to draw and my design background insists on an impeccably balanced composition, so of course those concepts will be highly visible in all of my work.
But that’s me, what about you? What is your work about? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to find out. I’ve included my answers to the questions as examples of ways to interpret the question, your answers will of course be different because we are all unique in our reasons for creating the art that we make.
- Why am I attracted to certain types of subject matter? While I paint a range of subjects including landscapes, figures and still life, there is a common element to my work. All of my subjects contain movement (even the still life paintings) and spontaneity. I also love to draw, so I prefer subjects that require confident drawing skills such as urban landscapes and clothed figures more so than peaceful sunsets. I love the challenge of organizing a complex amount of information into a balanced composition. I like using structure and geomtrics to create a sense of organized chaos.
- What do I enjoy most about creating art? Drawing! The first stages of the painting are always the best for me, creating the structure on top of which color and texture may be boldly applied. Drawing for me means an accurate block in of the abstract shapes that create the illusion of dimensionality and space. Proportion, perspective, form and value are what make it all work, color is always secondary to value in my work.
- What reaction do I want viewers to have to my painting? I want viewers to feel as if the paintings created themselves and simply appeared out of nowhere on the paper or canvas. They should look vibrant, spontaneous and filled with energy. No one should ever look at one and think “that must have been so difficult to paint” or “that must have taken FOREVER!”, instead the reaction should be one of surprise and pleasure at seeing pure energy on a piece of paper.
Knowing what interests and excites you most about both your work as a whole as well as an individual painting will make it stronger. I would love to hear what other artists have to say in response to the above questions and invite you to share your replies in the comments.