Monthly Archives: November 2010

What Makes a Painting Come Alive?

Blog 2

I’ve just returned from teaching my last workshop for 2010, held in Ann Arbor, Michigan. What a fabulous group of students I had! During the week, I presented a number of “abstract pictorial ideas” for them to play with  – and I loved having that huge blackboard to write them down on! Thank you Diane, for providing the fabulous venue and food! And I thank all of the workshop participants for stepping up to the plate!

I once read that one of Milton Avery’s goals was to find and paint what made a painting come alive for him. And I thought – what a noble goal! So, I asked myself, “What makes a painting come alive for me?”

Like Avery, I consider myself to be a formalist painter – a “Modernist” who believes that a painting must first and foremost be a painting – a formal arrangement of colors, shapes, values, lines, and textures on the picture surface. Also, like Avery, I am not as interested in presenting a literal representation of my subjects as I am in playing with abstract pictorial ideas on the picture surface. 

At the opening reception of my Out and About exhibit a few weeks ago I did a talk titled, Up Close and Personal, where I talked about some of the abstract pictorial ideas that are important to me – ideas that I consciously use to help me infuse life and vitality into my paintings. In preparation for my talk, I sat down and made a list of some of the formal elements of picture making that I am passionate about. On that list were things like creativity, invention, abstract structuring, personal brushstrokes, personal mark- making, altered color, interesting edges, making connections, and creating movement and rhythm. I found making that list very enlightening because it showed me what I’m all about as an artist. Every artist has a different idea of what it takes to put together a fabulous painting – what it takes to make his painting come alive – and every artist has a different attraction to and relationship with the abstract elements of picture making. Some artists are passionate about shape. Other artists don’t care about shape at all, they love texture. Some artists are totally in love with color. For other artists, color is secondary to value. Knowing what you love is the first step towards finding an authentic personal expression. Which elements of picture making do you love? What makes a painting come alive for you?      

Happy Painting!