Monday, September 13

The Many Moods of Paintings

Untitled by Thom Harris
Oil on Canvas, c.1950
Feelings, nothing more than feelings, as the old song goes—some of the great and powerful things art does is to create mood and evoke emotion, you know, feelings.

That may seem to go without saying; however, I think it’s gone so long without saying that we artists sometime forget about that power.

The very nature of this visual medium begets a response even if it’s nothing more than, “Oh, what a pretty vase of flowers.”

Every painting creates a mood whether the artist intended to or not. If the artist is not cognizant of this mood-creating/emotion-evoking power as he or she paints, pity. That’s a problem, and if that’s the case, you’re not painting, you’re just “slinging paint.”

As lukewarm as the above response may be, the viewer at least identifies with the subject in some way. In this example, I’m guessing the flowers, or the vase, created a mood of cheerfulness and evoked an emotion of contentment, at least at some level.

Of course, the mood created and the emotion evoked depend on the subject matter, the color palette, and the style in which the painting is rendered, among other facets the artist controls.

Mood is such a personal response to all sorts of life events that it’s difficult to generalize about the mood that may overtake the viewer when looking at a painting. As its creator, the artist should know what he or she intended, but not the end result for the viewer—you just never know how anyone will take your work of art.

The emotional response can be from near zero to almost infinity depending on the individual’s state of mind, the motif, and the setting in which the painting is viewed. All three combine to provide that “certain something” when you see a painting for the very first time.

I’m pretty sure this mood-thing is in play when people say their favorite painting is, for example, Renoir's The Luncheon of the Boating Party or their favorite painter is Edward Hopper. What they’re really saying is, ”I always remember how I felt when I first saw that painting.”

The biggest sin an artist can make is to forget, or worse, be unaware of, the moodiness and emotional power of the brushstroke. You know, feelings.

Until next blog…

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