Painting in Your Own Backyard by Deb Bartos

This sounds like something you would do if you were three and your mother was hanging clothes on the line.  It is really excellent art education advice.  Ordinary and mundane objects can be the best subjects ever.  An added advantage is not wasting time or money on the commute to painting expeditions.

Consider the impressionists and what they painted.  Their subjects were their families, each other, a table set for lunch, a vase of flowers.  OK, there was Renoir and the women and Degas and the ballet dancers, but they generally painted every day life.  Impressionism was just a phrase coined by an art critic who said they were not finished paintings, but “impressions.” He saw them as rough sketches instead of the smooth blended strokes of Salon and Academy paintings.  The artists who exhibited their work together and were eventually called “The Impressionists” were interested in capturing the everyday moments that mattered to them.

I always think I’ll paint if I travel, as there will be subjects to inspire me.  Truthfully, I’m inspired to paint when I start painting something.  It gets more interesting the more I pay attention.  When I travel, I am captivated by eye candy everywhere and can’t stand still long enough to paint. I have to go see everything there is to see.

Walking down Santa Fe’s Canyon Road with a photographer friend, she asked me to stop as she just had to shoot something.  It was a cigarette butt.  I got a good laugh and a good reminder of “beauty in the eye of the beholder.”  It was a stunning composition with great color and background design. I would have never seen it otherwise, as I was too busy looking at the wonderful architecture and art in abundance there.

Another artist friend received instruction in an art class to “find something ugly and paint it beautifully.”  This is an interesting idea, and an even more interesting value judgment. What makes something ugly or beautiful? How do we as artists decide what to paint and how? What do we see and invite others to look at?

Art has endless possibilities. There are always enough subjects to go around, and painting from life is more challenging and real than painting from reference photos. You can get away with it if you do both, but life is the best! It is warm outside and summer in most places so even better! Enjoy, and keep on painting!

Poppy Passion 9 x 12 oil by Deb Bartos ©2010                 Backyard Poppies 8 x 10 oil by Deb Bartos©2010

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