My job is to see what other people have seen and to find something new in it. I heard this on a video about scientists the other day and wrote it down because it applies to artists.
There’s plenty of redundant subject matter in art. Here’s the typical list for paintings: landscapes, seascapes, flowers, portraits, still-life settings, allegorical and historical scenes, and non-objective. Most of us can say “been there, done that” when it comes to these subjects. But, the reason these subjects are so popular throughout time is because that’s what people want to see. So, how can we continue to produce artwork and avoid pointless redundancy? By, as the scientist stated, finding something new in what everyone else sees.
For example, many paintings of roses exist. But, here are some unusual examples that best illustrate that these artists were able to find something “new” in a rose:
by Georgia O'Keeffe
Years ago, I became aware of the fact that I was only painting “pretty pictures.” There was no substance, no unique viewpoint, and no indication that I had anything important to add to the dialogue of art. This realization occurred during my first semester of studio painting in college three decades ago. The professor commented that my work was worthy of a department store and not much else. It was unoriginal and ordinary - vacuous. His comment was critically important to making me realize that I was a technician and not an artist. I had great painting technique – and that was all.
It’s taken a long time for me to find my voice and express it effectively in my paintings. I see it as a life-long quest and look to my dear friend as a role model. She’s an 84-year-old sculptor/painter. Each year, without fail, she expands her repertoire by creating something entirely new that expresses her unique ideas. Her work appears in venues around the world every year as she pushes it out the door. She’ll persist until she takes her last breath. I aspire to this, myself.
What about you?