When you stand before a painting, has it ever occurred to you that you would like to know something about the artist? Unless you recognize the painter’s name, the signature at the bottom will be of little help. If the painting is being shown in a gallery, the staff may be able to assist with some information.
I have heard of artists that refuse to sign their work or place their signature out of sight on the back of the painting. I suppose they would prefer that their painting stand up to scrutiny on its own. I have trouble understanding the concept.
When I come across a painting that intrigues me, I am interested in identifying the artist and learning more. When I visit an artist’s art booth and am impressed with the work, I introduce myself (when the artist has a quiet moment) so I can learn more about their career and how they arrived at the painting. I imagine I have lots of company, judging by the number of art books being published these days on the lives of artists, past and present, and the events that shaped their work.
Being an artist means being creative. Creativity is personal. Back when I taught plein air painting workshops for artists, I came to realize that everyone observes and experiences things differently. Under my guidance the artists were introduced to the idea of seeing landscapes in terms of shapes and design and then encouraged to express their individual ideas and impressions in brush strokes - no painting was the same. I have always believed that the journey to be a painter means learning about oneself. It’s a principal that I taught at every workshop and remains a guiding force for me and my work.
Take portrait painting for example. Through practice, I know that I can produce a reasonable likeness. But getting surface detail right is only one part of the process. What I strive for and what makes a painting superior is interpretation. Whether it is a horn player laying down a jazz lick, a sculpture assessing a block of granite or Vincent Van Gogh expressing the colours that he felt as he struggled with mental illness, it’s all personal. Inescapably.
When one of my paintings is purchased, it’s good to be able to converse with the new owner, if possible, so I can explain how and where the work was painted. It also gives me the opportunity to learn about what the client appreciates about my work and if they own more of my paintings (my catalogue number is written on the back of each painting so that I may identify it without actually seeing it). The impersonality of a print is why I have avoided making copies and why I choose fine galleries to represent my work, ones that are knowledgeable about me and my art.