Thursday, July 23

Put Feelings Into Your Artwork and Let the Emotion Flow!

Today’s Image
Moonlight Ceremonial
Acrylic on Canvas
Copyright 2008
Today’s blog is about something emotional. Today's Image is an acrylic of mine.

Artists are known for their ability to visualize and then to render what they see and feel.

The ability to capture feelings in artwork is what separates the artist from the illustrator, the sculptor from the potter, and the photographer from the picture-taker.

Why is that?

You have probably read or heard art critics, or anyone with a good eye actually, use less-than-glowing terms, such as flat, lifeless, or boring to describe a work of art. Of course, they may be full of hot air or wholly unsuitable for making a comment, but many times they are right on target.

What do they mean? What is it that they’re not liking or seeing? We may never know because they are not able to be more explicit or to express exactly what they mean.

I think they mean the artist’s feelings. It’s called other things, too, such as grasp, or soul, or vision, or, blandly, artistic ability. You've probably heard it put other ways, too. For example, in portrait painting, it’s physiognomy, the art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance, especially the face. (Drop that into a conversation and see jaws drop.)

Feelings! That’s one of the reasons artists are right-brained. We have feelings! We have empathy. We have sympathy. We commiserate. We look within and beyond. I liken this ability to that of actors who are able to portray an individual in a role so convincingly, they “become” that person for a time.

Pretty strong stuff, these feelings.

How can you tell the artist put his or her feelings into the work? Simply stated, it’s obvious. The work takes on an importance. It draws you in, and it’s difficult to stop looking. You keep discovering nuances. It outshines other work.

If the work is an animate object, you feel the emotional tie. If it’s a landscape, you feel what the artist felt at the place and time. In abstract works, you feel the whole experience the artist brings to the moment.

Look at any one of Mary Cassatt’s paintings of children.

Look at any one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexican landscapes.

Look at any one of Claude Monet’s garden paintings at Giverny.

Look at any one of Mark Rothko’s contemporary paintings.

You feel!

Now, go look at your own work, and see if your feelings are really in it.


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