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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, August 11, 2017

When There's Nothing to Add

Sometimes I forget about the fact that 
 art needs to "add" to the
conversation...why make a copy of 
something unless there is more to say?

As artists we spend so much time learning how to render something, how to use the media to capture what we see that we forget about the creativity of saying something new.  I don't mean we have to reinvent a new type of wheel but we should be adding something new to the conversation about the wheel.  Does this resonate?

Andy Braitman was trying to make a similar point last week in a workshop I attended when he asked:  "How can you improve upon a beautiful photograph of a gorgeous woman? " and he answered succinctly "You can't.  So don't paint it." And then he added, "Unless you are going to tell us something new about that gorgeous woman."

I have pondered this all week and, as a result, am reexamining my interest in painting, with permission, my friend Gene's fabulous flower photographs.  Gene's ability to capture the NC wildflowers is extraordinary.  He does everything with a camera that I cannot.  It seemed a simple matter to let him do his magic and then ask if I could paint from the images that caught my attention.  (Gene is a generous fellow and always says yes.)

So I tried....
and tried....
and tried.

Here is one result, a Yellow Salsify flower and bee.

Cindy's version of "Salsified" oil, 10 x 0

It's not bad, but it is not memorable either.

Here is the original photo:

Gene Smith, photography

Now, to me, that is stunning, it is fresh and it stands on its own as art.
And look at this one:

photo by Gene Smith

What makes this photo exquisite are all the elements I would merely be copying: the way he captured the light on the edges of the bud and stem, the muted background and the stunning detail of the flower petals.  Not much more to add to that.  It was Gene who waited patiently in the itchy grass for the sun to catch the flower, not me. Had I been sitting alongside of him with my sketchbook or paints I somehow would have felt more legit.

I'm not saying that working from photos is a bad thing.  I just think I have come to the realization that the photo must be mine, I should have smelled and tasted and felt the location and have something of "cindy" to add to the image.  That's all.  I need to add to the conversation, start a new one or stay quiet.

Thanks Gene for your patience and understanding as I worked my way through this valuable lesson. 
At my urging Gene has made two calendars of his work, one on wildflowers and one of butterflies.  They are worth a look AND an order.  Check them out here. You may also contact Gene via email using the little envelope symbol on this page

Meanwhile, stay with me as I ponder this issue further.  What do you think?  Have you had a similar experience or revelation?

p.s. the post on finding painted rocks resulted in so many neat stories about folks participating. I really enjoyed the variety of places folks picked them up and how they added a little perfect something to their day.  So paint on, spread the joy and keep your eyes open! 

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