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.