So, what am I painting, anyway?

One of my very best friends and I had a conversation about my paintings. They were asking really great questions and reminding me how to talk about my work in a way that invites others in.

I don’t recall a time when my teachers didn’t take us to the local museums and show us art, including lots of 20th-century work. (Yes, this was public school.) I’m 47 now, so I’ve spent a lot of years going to museums and galleries and open studios, most of them before I got serious about learning to paint in 2010. I live alone and my studio is at home, so I don’t talk about my work as much as I might. But it’s really good for me.

If you’ll forgive me, gentle reader, I’m going to complete this post as a dialogue, much like the original conversation, in hopes of avoiding the dryness of a manifesto or other proclamation about art. Here are some recent images I’ve posted of work in progress to help make the words more concrete.

current works in progress

current works in progress

Do you see things in this image? Or is it so abstract and arty that it doesn’t have a subject? My knowledge of art is limited to what I like. Same as my knowledge of wine.

I guess it’s arty. I personally avoid the term abstract*, because that suggests it's a distillation of something else. I prefer non-representational, since it's not representing anything other than itself.

Just a feeling in color? Or how do you describe it? I’m trying to find words for it.

An image has many possible facets: color, texture, proportion, scale, depth, harmony, etc. Representing the world is a possible member of the list, but isn't necessary. In most of my work, I am not representing the world. Does that make sense?

Ah. Are you representing something else?

I've been thinking and seeing this way for so many years, I forget it's not typical. Instead of a painting of an apple (etc), it's a painting of itself. It’s a little heady.

It is heady. And a little like a club I’m not a member of. I mean, instead of, “That’s a good picture of an apple”, it’s “This is a picture of what you see in your heart”?

Maybe. “This is an image of what I see in my heart and mind and taste”. And I welcome others to bring their own hearts, mind, and taste to looking at the work.

OK. I get that. So, it’s just pretty. Or not. It just is.

Pretty or troubling or poised or unhinged, etc. I think it's describable, just not as a representation. and I hope people will ascribe their own descriptions.

(laughing) I’m just a person who doesn’t know much about art but had a lot of feelings.

So you’re human!

*this is a partial lie. Currently, this website has a gallery of work called Abstract. It’s a concession to the colloquial use of the term.