Saturday, February 03, 2007

Thoughts on Representational Art

At Sydney's Wednesday I started this pastel and then finished it today at home. It seemed rather non-descript for awhile, but I fussed with it until I had given it something to make it special--in this case the road with its tire tracks. Every one of my Epping Road paintings has something I consider to be unique to that individual work, something that makes it stand out. I enjoy making something like this plowed road with its dirty little plowed banks into something beautiful. I congratulate myself for not taking the easy way out and simply making the snow pristine. I really think it is quite trite to paint things as you wish them to be rather than the way they are. These fields are so beautiful without alteration that if I could teach viewers anything it would be to simply look and see the beauty that is already there. It is tempting to be so judgmental about what looks good and what doesn't. Taking "artistic license" is just another way of denying the ability to find something worthwhile in reality. It reveals a lack of observational skills and the heart to use them. Representational art can transform the viewer as much as anything else provided the artist can expose how to look at the world. It is necessary to suspend stereotypical views and approach a scene as if for the first time, free of prejudices. It's the artist's skill, knowing how to look, how to see. Artistic talent lies more in the power of observation than in mechanical expertise. It is the artist's duty to force the viewer to experience something in a new way, not to call on on-tap responses.

Well, that is what I believe now that I am engaged in this series. A year ago I would have said that there was no real reason to paint a "pretty picture." Do I alter my philosophy to justify my obsession? Or am I responding to a revelation concerning representational art? Or am I loving this project just because I am learning a new medium, enjoying the feel of chalk on paper? Is it that I feel some exhaltation over discovering the wide range of color after so many years of using only primaries? It's anybody's guess.

I know that I have never enjoyed doing anything ordinary people (non-artists) could understand and like. It made me feel banal. I had a severe case of artistic snobbery about it, very elitist. Doing this series is giving me a new way of thinking. I am probably no less a snob, but at least I have different reasons.
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