“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.
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.
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.