Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Artist's Prerogative

It is the artist’s prerogative to reveal the beauty of common things to those who havn’t noticed!
Most of us usually do notice a gorgeous sunset, or a pretty child or a cuddly kitten.  But how many spot
the beauty on stained tanks of chemicals?
 As John Carlson put it in his highly recommended book on landscape painting:

 "the need is for something more than a commonplace truth".

It is the artist’s task to help/make the viewer see the beauty in things that they might well have missed.
  This is true regardless of the image that is being created.
 Still life: whoever looked twice at an old bottle?  Morandi helped us to see the nuances of color and form.  Dominie Nash shows us the amazing pattern and structure of a few items left lying on a table. 

Monet showed us the varying light on haystacks – pretty ordinary looking things one wouldn’t normally give much time to…and if you look at photographs of the actual scenes that Cezanne or Van Gogh painted you’d be amazed at how ordinary and prosaic many of them are.
You don’t have to go to Venice to find wondrous ideas, they are as close as your nearest supermarket!

People in my workshops sometimes say - I don't know what to make a quilt about, everything been done!!  Yes it's very true of sunsets and puppy dogs and sweet little cottages nestled in landscapes, to say nothing of those eternal sheep on the green hillside (these days they're probably statues anyway!), but what about the beauty of the everyday things that you see - the shadow of light on the bathroom wall, the dandelions (a sadly under rated flower) pushing their way up through cracks in the pavement, the accidental superimposition of two images, or the juxtaposition of oddities.   The keys of a piano seen from an unusual angle, the moss - oh the moss!! And yet I hear of people trying to get rid of it!!!
 What images, what little secret vignettes are stored in your brain?   Your memory is a good place to work from for it exaggerates the essentials and the trifles become blurred.  This is especially helpful to the artist.  Remember, if you just create (in whatever medium) that which is exactly there, the literal truth, it's frequently dull and unexciting.
Push the good stuff!! forget the rest!Always tell the story well, emphasizing the main action, don't worry about the details of  what the weather was like when it happened, or what Mrs Smith said when she heard about it!! Unless she had the wit of Oscar Wilde, of course!!

It's curious but true that the visual memories that often have the most impact are those that seem to go far back.  Carlson feels that much creative work is founded upon our earliest impressions, when everything was new and fresh and we had no preconceived notions.  Those early images  "ripen" as memory and feeling get to work on them.   They are our artistic inheritance, a treasure trove of ideas.  Furthermorewe may well be excited by something we see now precisely because it triggers these old early memories.   That might be why I see beauty in industrial buildings having grown up within sight of a gasometer!  And, very interestingly, artists are using gasometers as objects of beauty.  There is a show about to start in Germany based on many views of them.

I wonder how many artists have made quilts about cups of tea though, I think I'd better make one and get a few ideas!!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth


Linda B. said...

Yorkshire tea by any chance?
Not sure I'd call my self an artist but I did make a piece about a china cup and saucer .... http://bilsblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/12bythe-dozen-challenge-fine-living.html

Chris said...

I grew up in Pittsburgh back when the steel mills were going full tilt. I would love to make a quilt sometime of one of the mills along one of pittsburgh's rivers. The shapes of the stacks and the buildings would make a great composition. I will have to find an old photo of the mills to give me a starting point. A lot of folks would call them ugly. I think they are interesting.

Jackie said...

I agree totally!!! I recall being on a bus tour and taking pictures of a cluster of houses that somehow I could 'see' with morning sunlight on their windows. My husband smiled; he didn't know what exactly it was that caught my eye, but he knew it was something exciting! He understood when he saw the quilt!

Leigh in Portland (we are not burning down) said...

I can think of a zillion things at work, and have to write them down. Otherwise, when I get home, I can't think of a thing. Most of the work that I really enjoy is a different view of a familiar thing. It is nice to recognize the topic, but thought provoking to see it in a way I hadn't thought of before.

Karen@littlebirdiequilting said...

I find it fascinating looking at what other people choose to make a quilt of, or paint about, or even their choices in clothing. And also how five people can look at the same thing but all see something different.

needlescape said...

I have been collecting images of shadows for awhile. It is not something you normally notice but they are quite stunning. A whole series in gray tones...