Tell A Story In Your Paintings & Speak Your Truth

“Why did I pick that to paint?”  Stop for a moment and ask yourself that before you move on. I usually know why I picked my subject, before a single pastel stroke hits my paper.

People used to be surprised when I said I don’t paint landscapes. “But, but, you’re a successful painter”, they stammered. 

So many people already do, and do it better than I could ever. WHY? because trees and mountains and streams and paths don’t call to me. They are not the story I want to tell.

Whether it’s people in restaurants engaged in a conversation, or an oysterman pulling today’s haul out of the sea, or two pears playing hide and seek with a bunch of cherries, I see a story worth painting.

I want the viewer to tell themselves a story while they are looking at my work, be in on a website or hanging in a gallery. It doesn’t have to be MY story.

I cannot go anywhere without taking a bunch of photos for a future painting. The supermarkets and farmers markets are fair game, they are full of fruits and veggies and customers and they all can play together or separately on my easel someday soon.

Right now I am working on a series of local restaurants for a project and I have to find a story to make each place a bit different and unique. Sometimes I just paint what’s on the plate. I love the colors the shapes, the negative spaces the meal showed me. Or I might love the colourful clothes a diner is wearing and my mind conjures up a story about that person.

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At Winnie’s Tavern Bar by Jeri Greenberg

 I found a bunch of antique tea cups in a consignment shop and bought them because they reminded me of my grandmother’s house. I took them home and painted “Tea Party” with them. I also took them to a Still Life class I was teaching and each student made them their own story.

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TeaParty by Jeri Greenberg

The advice I like to give my students, besides “have fun”, is continue to learn (of course) from other artists that you admire, but always make it your own, and your story will shine through. Every day I learn and I grow in my art journey, and that is my story.

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5 Responses

  1. Me encantó su trabajo, llenos de color! Sin duda alguna el pintar se trata de búsquedas y experiencias nuevas cada día.
    Felicitaciones!
    Un saludo desde Santiago de Chile.

  2. I SO appreciated this post. Someone recently told me I should spend more time on landscapes. The problem: landscapes don’t make my heart sing. Thanks for the reminder that we each need to paint what tells “our” story!

  3. Lovely paintings! I can absolutely understand that a person need to paint what gives a resonance inside-and it is great someone finds that a motive that leaves me uninterested can make them inspired and make great art! For me , people as a subject of a painting leave me cold ( but I absolutely appreciate those artists, like you, who paint people brilliantly!) but landscapes always make me want to grab my painting tools😉. It would be so boring if everyone painted the same motives!
    I wonder just one thing, do you ask permission from those you take a snapshot of to use as a motive? It is something I have wondered about for a long time now when looking at art that depict street scenes and such, should one ask permission or is it just something one has to accept in this day when everyone takes photos all the time that sometimes you become an anonymous actor in someones story? Being a person who never ever posts pictures of others on internet, even street scenes on internet or my kids, I wonder about how far one can demand integrity or are we all sort of fair use? I am sorry if I express myself clumsily, english is not my language. It is absolutely no critisism, just a thought thrown out to the art world in general.

  4. Just discovered your blog through your newsletter. Love your blog, the way you intersperse the writing with your artwork! and this was a good subject you wrote about…many times what I hate about drawing classes is I can’t get excited about the subject! You aren’t interested in landscapes, me, it life drawing. Will read your other entries soon.

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