Sunday, January 9th, 2011

You See What You Look For

An artist I admire, Bo Bartlett, recently tweeted the phrase ”You see what you look for.”

This resonated with me, as it both represents my approach to painting, but also applies to how the viewer responds to a piece.

Though my subject matter is often structures—barns, old houses, buildings that have withstood time—there is something else I’m looking to convey beyond the beauty of the subject itself. The process of editing the scene, to take out what I don’t want in the composition, and to put in what I do, is done with little other consideration other than to achieve the feeling the piece will have.

I’ve found it interesting over the years how collectors, gallery owners and visitors comment that my work is peaceful and calming, while others take from the image a sense of solitude, and even loneliness.

Because the subjects of my paintings are not intended to be literal representations of a certain structure in a certain location, they are often viewed as images that remind viewers of a time in their life, or a place they’ve been, or even of people. And though I do not put people in my paintings, I’ve been told viewers and collectors project people into the paintings and it forms the basis of how they see the emotional context of a building. Each viewer may choose to project different people – or lack of people – therein influencing their opinion as to whether a piece resonates as peaceful or lonely.

A piece titled “East Chop”—a larger oil of an old  house in Oak Bluffs—recently sold to a buyer who instantly connected with the piece upon seeing it in the gallery. The gallery shared with me that this woman had commented at the time that at first view, she knew it was the same house she had admired, years ago, while living on the Vineyard with her husband, who had passed away recently. She put the painting in her home in Falmouth, and sent me several emails recounting how she sees something new each time she looks at it.

Making a connection to a viewer through a painting isn’t something you can plan to do. There’s no guarantee it will happen, but when it does, there is great satisfaction when what the artist looks to be seen in a composition connects with what a viewer looks to see. order research paper

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