Sea Blue Lens

Learning from Other Artists


Our lesson this week in the Find Your Eye course required us to go somewhere and view some live art. The real deal . . . an exhibit, a gallery, anything other than on a computer screen or in a book. We were to take notes on what we saw, how we felt about it, what we felt drawn to or repelled by. Then, back to our photojournals, to write about the experience, and what we can learn from other artists that can be applied to our own art.

So on Sunday, I set out. First I visited a local historical museum, where I found a number of portraits from the 18th and 19th centuries, along with a display of new abstract paintings and charcoal sketches by a contemporary artist. Then I headed to a nearby town where I chanced upon an exhibit by the local Art Guild, and visited a few small galleries.

My reaction to most of the historical portraits was to wonder, did people really look like that then, or was it just the artistic style and fashion of the day that made them look that way? Sloped shoulders, pinched faces, pot-bellied gentlemen and stiff-necked women . . . none of them looked like happy people, but then, life was probably pretty hard in Early American New England. Or perhaps it says more about the skill level of the itinerant, self-taught artists who painted most of them. One exception was a portrait of a very handsome young man with beautiful eyes, who reminded me of a picture of Lord Byron that I fell hard for as a teenager.

The piece at the Art Guild that stood out for me from among the pretty oils and pastels was a photographic digital composition. I know that will sound strange to those who have read my previous comments about digitally altering photographs in post-processing, but in this case, the piece had been made by creatively combining separate photographic elements into a totally new composition. It was intriguing, humorous, an impossible composition that was startlingly realistic. I wouldn’t want to live with it, but I enjoyed looking at it for quite a while, admiring all its details and technical brilliance.

The work that I was most drawn to (aside from that one digital aberration) tended to be either impressionistic or extremely realistic, and depicted simple elements of land and sea and buildings, both interiors and exteriors. There were few if any people in them, and the mood was one of serenity. There was, for example, a large watercolor of a rock balanced upon two other rocks, with a single blossom on a tall stem rising up above them against a clear sky.

What I don’t care for are series of canvasses covered in apparently random splashes of discordant color, with pretentious titles that, to my eye at least, have no relation to anything on the canvas at all. I have seen abstract art that I think is beautiful, but not on this outing.

What I learned from this expedition is that the kind of art that appeals to me most is actually a lot like the kind of photographs I take. (Or is it the other way around?) Below are a couple of examples from my inspiration file.


Bloom where you’re planted

I enjoyed my gallery outing and look forward to repeating this exercise soon.

20 thoughts on “Learning from Other Artists

  1. Wish I’d been well enough to go on that outing! I bet some of the exhibits were nicer than others! 🙂

  2. awesome picture of that flower! i really liked that one. thanks for posting!

  3. Thank you! And thanks for visiting.

  4. I love that you found a parallel between the art you like and your favorite photographs! Isn’t that cool? It helps you understand a bit more about why you photograph the way you do, how what you are drawn to plays into your eye. Lovely photographs and wonderful experience. And it’s also a good reminder that art is subjective – those abstracts you didn’t like on this outing, may be loved by another. The same with our photography.

    • So true. I know those works came from that artist’s heart, and I’m sure many people would love and relate to them. And very likely they would not be moved by my art. What’s great is that there’s room for us all.

  5. Lee,
    I think you and Kat have brought up an excellent point – that art is subjective AND that the art world is large enought to encompass all of it!

    And that sometimes we can be surprised by what we admire in the works of others. I think adding a dose of surprise to our lives is a very good thing!

  6. Your photos are beautiful, I particularly love lamp, and I love your description of your experience. Becsx

  7. I really enjoyed reading your post, your description of what moved you and what didn’t. The photos from your inspiration file just fit so perfectly with what you discussed here…and the window is my favorite.

  8. Good, it seems that it is a common theme that much of what we photograph is what we also like to see in other art- with a few twists and surprises.

  9. your photos are lovely. it would be interesting for your to discover which comes first, you liked some artworks because they are similar to yours, or your photography is what it is because you are influenced by these kind of artworks!!

    • I think it’s the former. I had been taking photographs for nearly 30 years before I ever saw my first art exhibit, and I’ve always been drawn to the same types of subjects, mostly landscapes and nature.

  10. That first photo is soooo Andrew Wyeth/New England. I’m wondering where you visited. Isn’t it funny we have so many places to visit (especially in tourist season), yet rarely give ourselves time to do so.
    I also loved your description of the old portraits-I also wonder if people really looked “like that”. Funny in today’s context.
    It’s very fun having you in this class and knowing you’re just a few towns over.

    • The museum was in Saco, then I went to K’port. 🙂 I was wondering where you went, too! I do love Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie too. I’m itching for a trip to Rockport and the Farnsworth soon.

      Maybe we should get together some time!

  11. I love the textures and lighting in your lamp photo. I was first attracted to the cracked and peeling paint, then to the weave of the curtain, and then I finally noticed the lamp. It’s interesting that a single image can be viewed a bit differently by each person who sees it.

  12. Isn’t it strange that we sometimes like something we thought we wouldn’t like. I like this surprise factor in art.
    Both your images are lovely, I like the way they are almost monochrome in a natural way with some color added.

  13. I’ve found I’m not drawn to “random splashes of discordant color” either. I guess artist’s that use this technique are “color-ists” as opposed to “shape-ists” ~ this sort of art appears as an after thought! hard to explain.

  14. I really love both of your images they portray your thoughts so well! The first one is so full of textures and shadows and in the second one I love the textures and splash of color!! Well done!

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