Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Connecting with Content.
I was reading a very interesting article in the latest issue of International Artist the other day. The author of the article, Philip Miles, pointed out something that I have been aware of for some time both with my quilts and my paintings, and that is that when people buy them they do so because of the content. For example the quilt on the right sold because the person was familiar with the place...... And had very fond memories of it.
Other friends like to buy only red pieces .......
There's a lovely little anecdote about a farmer looking at Grant Wood's famous painting Stone City and saying to the artist: " I wouldn't give 35 cents an acre for that land." He wasn't interested in the quality of the painting at all but rather on what it depicted......
Content, or sometimes colour, is what draws a person to look more closely at artwork.
Consider an art show: Nearly everybody approaches a piece more closely because of the content of your artwork than how well it's made. ( Except perhaps those nazi judges everybody talks about!)
Furthermore, as Miles points out, whether or not they will actually buy the piece depends much more on the content than anything else.
For example, I recently sold the following painting because the buyer said it reminded him of his mother's house.
They love to be reminded of happier times..... Places they've lived, people they have known.... Holidays that they've taken - connections. I have a friend who mainly paints pictures of her husband and she is surprised that nobody buys them...... Now I think a Painting would have to be unusually and extremely good for you to want to buy an image of somebody else's husband!
So what do artists think about when they are deciding what to make....
I usually have an idea that intrigues me...something that's an interesting and challenging puzzle to think how to work it out.
And In painting, particularly, I want to focus very much on improving my technical abilities....... and certainly in traditional quilting we were all very focused on making the most beautiful stitches we could.
I really enjoyed making a series of quilts about industrial buildings - the very unusual shapes and forms really interested me...... However, guess what? I was never been able to sell any of those quilts! Nobody is interested in having the image of a factory or steel mill hanging on their wall regardless of how well it's done. While people don't like a complete lack of craftsmanship, they are much less interested in how well something is designed and crafted for its own sake. The balance of the composition, the beauty of the stitch line it's not as important is the connection that they are making(Or not making) With the piece. Or, Of course, whether not it will match the sofa! I may think how wonderful a dress is, that is made in white wool, finely pleated in the most exquisite way - but I could never relate to actually owning such garment.
Businesses buy work that they hope will convey a certain mood..... For example cheerfulness and hope for a hospital department..... Or calmness and productivity in an office setting.
So this puts us in a kind of dilemma. Does it mean that we should only be making work with a kind of content that we think will attract people? Or, Do we really want a room full of quilts.... stored up.... With increasing technical skill... or paintings with considerably improved draughtsmanship stacked up against the studio wall?
I think the answer lies in bringing the two together..... Is there a way that we can develop our ability to create a beautiful form while at the same time using content that resonates - whether it be realistic, impressionistic or abstract. Trying to develop technical skills that help want to communicate much better about particular imagery...... So perhaps not changing content so much as making it in richer and more satisfying way. As Miles says you want the form and content to work together.
I think we do want our creations to go out into the world, but we also want to develop our skills I work on things that are meaningful to us.
A lot of people ask me about developing their own voice or style.... And, while predictable content does play a part in that, a consistency of form is much more important. How you set about creating your composition...and the way in which you carry it out. For example you could style yourself as the person who makes quilts about flowers..... But you could not be considered as having developed your own style if your flower quilts were all done in different ways.
Developing a voice is much more likely to occur if you use the same kind of technical skills whether it be related to design or construction in each piece. It's how we express ourselves about the particular content and how we communicate our feelings about it. Think about personal style as the way in which people tell you about the things that excite them.... What are the kinds of words they use? what are the kinds of expressions they have? what are the kinds of gestures? In design terms, these would be the shapes, the colours, the value patterns, the textures, the favorite basic structures and so on. Do you talk about things in strong bold way, or do you put ideas across in a much more delicate unassuming manner? Do you like hyperbole, or do you prefer nuance? So I see style as relating much more to form than just the content itself .
Content, in fact, is just one distinct parts of a personal style.
So going forward, Think both about what you want to say and how are you want to say it! And be consistently true to yourself.
If you have been, thanks for reading...... And I look forward with pleasure Reading your thoughts on this subject! Elizabeth