Monday, January 11, 2010

Checking In; Libby- January Challenge

I am checking in a little early with my January piece. As I was working on it yesterday I observed a couple of things and wanted to share my thoughts.

Although it is a photo of myself, that isn't the element that I focused on for my piece. Debra and I both said early on that the photo is a launching point. Well, I really mean this in the broadest sense of the term. I hope people will make something that expresses what they are feeling, whatever that is.

The second thing I noticed is that while I like my piece so far I can see that my "explanation" about the piece is going to be one of the key elements of that piece. I read a post the other day indicating that if the viewer doesn't "get" your concept from looking at your artwork, then you haven't done a good enough job of rendering said concept. I absolutely disagree with this statement on lots of levels. To begin with, I dislike being told what to think. I don't disregard the concept that any artist wants to convey but don't tell me how to interpret that. I also think that in telling a person that they have missed the point, you totally negate their thought process. Give them the real point but validate whatever conclusion they came to. With that said, I see my explanation as integral to what I make but draw your own conclusions! I support that.

I do hope this helps people to feel free to make whatever they are making in the way that they want to make it. Isn't that the point of interpreting something?


  1. I'm a bit confused. I would have originally felt about the emphasis on the photo the way you do, but Debra did say to make it recognizable. So... Believe me mine is, perhaps too literal. I guess it doesn't really matter. As you say, that's what "interpret" means. Certainly in future months it's unlikely that we'll stick too close to the photo. I'm looking forward to seeing yours, as well as everyone else's.

    Your other point about "getting" the concept is interesting. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I guess I would hope I manage to create a response somewhere within the ball park of my intention. But in the case of the self-portrait, I would imagine most people would just say, as my husband did, "Oh, it's you. What's that in the background?"

    Hmm.. this turned out to be both a very lengthy comment, AND a teaser, didn't it?

  2. Excellent observation Libby. I don't think every piece of art needs to be interpreted or understood. Maybe we analyze too much. Some things can just be visual without meaning.

  3. I took a rather broad approach to my picture--it symbolizes the era and the relationship more than it represents me specifically. Although without the era and the relationship, I wouldn't have become who I am so that connection is present too.

    I guess I also agree with Rian in that not all pictures have to have meaning or sometimes they don't interest me enough to delve into their meaning.

  4. I am still not sure how my self-portrait is going to turn out. I did scrap the first one and am working on the second. It has possibilities. I hope I am not up the night before my reveal doing the finishing stitches!

    I defintely think an art work should stand on its own merit. That doesn't mean that I have to see or feel the same thing you see or feel in the picture. It does mean that the work is "good" in and of itself--without the back story.

    I remember a true story about a Jewish artist. He was used to being famous in Russia and being sought after for art shows. Then he moved to Isreal. His pictures were no longer prized nor his skills applauded. At first it was a shock for him. It was hard for him to accept that in Russia the pictures were exciting because he was a Jewish artist painting from a Jewish perspective but in Isreal everyone is a Jewish artist so that was not enough -- the pictures had to be good too.

    Does that make sense?

  5. All great thought provoking comments so thank you. I think it is an age old question to ask: Have I conveyed my intended message? For me, it isn't so much that the viewer gets it but that they think something about it. I would like for people to know what I was thinking, what I was drawing on for my inspiration and so to that end, the background is integral to the finished piece but as Judith pointed out, not wholly essential for the work to have intrinsic merit (I think!)

    OK-now go make something from your heart already!

  6. When I read your story, Judith, I immediately thought of how careful experienced quilters need to be when a new quilter comes amongst them. The techniques and ideas we have already worked through are new and exciting to a beginner. It would be so easy to say, "yea? so what" and squash her enthusiasm.

  7. Oh, so very true, Debra!

    But just saying "oh nice" doesn't really help the artist know what exactly was successful and where to go from there. A great critique will include the strengths of a piece that will inspire an artist of any level.

  8. I am a strong believer in the idea that each viewer sees something different in every art work. I have no problems with someone not 'getting' my intended meanings in something. I am just happy if they saw something in it or felt something from it.
    I am having a great deal of fun with my self portrait. Having decided to work small(so far aprox. eight or ten inches square) Has made this do-able for me. I am thinking that each work I do will be the same size, keep it cohesive. At least thats what I am thinking for today...

  9. It's smart to concentrate on a size you can accomplish--I'm glad you feel positive about that part of the challenge. I bet your piece is going to be super!


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