It's autumn here in New Zealand. Getting colder and darker everyday now.
I'm still getting used to the season flip from the US and the fact that theres not going to be a halloween in two weeks.
Today I want to chat about "narrative" in art. I am not an expert on art terms or art history being self taught. So my ideas about narrative may be different from the orthodox view. To define the term narrative as it relates to landscape painting, I mean, contextualized artifacts that create stories.
I avoid narrative in my painting. That means I do not put people in my landscapes or even things like houses, fences, fence posts, cows, sheep etc.
My Studio "just painted" area
I've no issue with artists that use these elements in their work. In fact I know first hand that they're handy for solving many compositional problems. For me, those benefits are outweighed by the attention these focal points draw and more importantly the narrative that is generated when they are present.
For example, if I paint a young girl with a basket into a scene of a field. Many questions about her and her situation are created. Where is she going? Is she happy? What's in the basket? Do her parent's own the field?
Or if I paint an old barn in that field, you could ask, who works there? Is there anybody in that barn now? When was the last time anyone used that barn and so on.
On the other hand if I just paint a field with some trees and maybe a brook and an interesting sky. I've created a space that can be filled by the viewer of the painting without creating context. There is nothing between them and the emotive space that I've created for them to occupy. They are free to expand their consciousness into it and in so doing, relax and feel good.
Thats my goal and intention as a landscape painter if the truth be told.
I wish for the viewers of my paintings to feel good but thats just the beginning of what I'm after. As they go deeper into the painting they might begin to wonder why we are all alive anyway and why is life so beautiful?
Or they could begin to experience that feeling of stillness one has at that moment after the sun's just passed over the horizon and you find yourself deep in the seeming timelessness of the gloaming. A space between light and darkness and between life and death.
I should mention that my idol
often painted figures into his works. Not only was he able to do this without the sort of repercussions I've mentioned, but his best painting easily achieve all the things that I wish for my paintings to do as well.
All I can say is that Inness was a genius and that the rest of us must just do the best we can.
A bit about todays picture. This was taken today with my iphone at my studio in the
. The area of my studio pictured is to the right of where I paint and I set things there to dry and also keep recent things there to look at.
Looking at one's work is nearly as important as painting it. I generally feel close to the work I've just painted. The word "enamored" comes to mind.
However, more and more thats been replaced with a more critical mindset.
I'm determined now more than ever to push each painting to the limit of what I can accomplish at this time. That means, more color, more contrast, more light, more darkness and no muddy half hearted scenes will be tolerated.