Choose the Subject for Your Paintings Carefully-They are a Portrait of You.
Traditional Subjects—When we begin our life long painting journey most of our energies are directed at technique, design, and accuracy of the object or scene. This as only natural. Each era has their own cliche’s, but barns, boats, and bouquets are always popular. The shortcomings of painting these subjects is that these images tend to be more about the subject than the artist. This is not to say impossible. The paintings of Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, and Wolf Kahn all painted traditional subjects in personal and dynamic ways. So if you want to paint a barn try to do so in a manner that reflects your unique fellings or insight for the barn.
Non-traditional Subject—Another option is to select subjects that are rarely painted. Martha Wakkefield , (a contributor to The Palette Magazine) has used scissors and slips (lingerie) as metphors in her recent work. Ellie Reif painted ceiling fans, vacuum cleaners, plucked chickens and pizzas in a delivery box. There are many advantages in choosing unusual subjects. First there are not so many examples by other artist to cloud our possibilty list. Secondly, subjects that are not so prevalent have intrinsic appeal. Lastly by virtue of looking for unused subjects a whole new world appears and the artist that brings these subjects to light are revered.
Conceptual Subjects — Another sure way to select subjects is to go inside your thoughts and express you emotions and ideas. I think of nonobjective paintings as painted images without the middle man. The middle man being the visual objects we use to express non visual ideas. For example red can be used to express fear or anger or love. While nonobjective paintngs have no identifiable objects the idea behind them is the subject and no less real than the most recognizable images.
These 3 broad categories of subject selection are not intended for any reason other than to encourage us all to be thoughtful in making choices as to what, how, and why we make art. There are good and bad choices within each of these categories so make your selection based on what engages you and what keeps you interested in your work. If you stay interested, it is likely, the viewer will too.