I have a couple of paintings almost done, this is new but it isn’t one that I’m talking about. I’m going to spend some time looking at the others to decide if they’re done or need some tweaking. That made me think about looking at art.
I was in a gallery the other day and listening (I do eaves drop now and then) to a couple looking at a painting I had just looked at. They wondered why it warranted wall space in a gallery. It was a good piece but there were a lot of splatters and drips, something I love to see in a watercolor while others think it’s just plain sloppy.
There is no right or wrong here but it helps to know a bit about why the one that you wonder about is in that gallery or museum and sometimes you have to study it awhile to figure it out, especially if you don’t particularly like it.
To help, most museums have docents who can point out what makes a painting work. Galleries don’t generally have docents, they have sales people and while they do want to help you, they’re still sales people. In order to enjoy looking and to learn more about what you like and why you like it, here are a few general questions that docents at the Grand Rapids Art Museum ask. They’re good ones to ask yourself when you’re looking:
1. What’s going on in the painting?
2. What do you see that makes you think that?
3. Is there an element that makes your eye move around the painting to see what’s going on?
4. Does the title tell you what’s going on?
5. What images/objects do you see?
6. Is there a dominant color? What is it and how does it make you feel?
7. To really stretch yourself try imagining the main color area as a different color. Would you still respond to the painting in the same way?
These are general questions. Another time I’ll deal with looking at specific subject matter.