Back in my high school days, my art teacher signed me up for a painting class at the local museum. The teacher at the museum was one of the local high school teachers. He was not really much older than I was. He was probably a new teacher in the WFISD. He is now retired and still in WF. I see him from time to time and visit with him, but he doesn’t remember me. But, oh how I remember him.
It was the early 70s and Mr. K was all about modern art. “If it feels good, paint it” was his motto. Even if you just want to paint a circle because it feels right – do it. Strokes, slashes, whatever! If it feels good, do it. My eyebrow went up. I think I painted a silhouette of a windmill against a night sky. And I argued with Mr. K. He loved it – my arguing, that is. I told him that a painting needed to be liked by other people or what good was it? If no one liked or enjoyed or understood your painting, why do it? At the end of the class when the parents came to see our work, Mr. K told my dad how I had disagreed with him and argued my point and how much he liked that. Although these forty-plus years later he has forgotten that time, I have not.
Now days, I can understand his point better, not that I want to paint a circle or some other modern/slashes. But sometimes when I’m painting, there is a feeling that “this is so right!” When a painting comes together the way you want it to, it can feel great. Sometimes painting is just a struggle – things you have to work through to get the painting to work the way it does in your brain. Working through the struggle can feel good too.
Most of the time I paint from photographs. When I sort through a stack of photos, there may be something that jumps out and makes me feel, “I can paint that.” Sometimes I look through the photos of things that I thought were great, and they make me feel nothing at all. So, maybe it does have to feel right.
So, I am getting ready for the next Art Battle on November 9th. I have a couple of ideas for paintings. Here is the thing: it has to be something that I can paint well in 20 minutes. It cannot be something with too much detail. Mixing colors is time consuming, so it is better to stick with basic paint colors and little mixing. It needs to be something that catches the audience’s attention. Contrast is great. And here is the kicker: it needs to be something the audience can relate to.So there, Mr. K! I was right! People like to connect to a painting. If they don’t “get it” they won’t vote for it. If it doesn’t “pop”, the people will not like it. Two examples: In my last art battle, there was a lady who was an excellent artist and my biggest competition. She painted an amazing face, but her colors were very muted. I painted a little boy in an airplane with bright colors. People could relate to my painting and it stood out because of the color, so I won the round. In the other round there was a guy who painted a lion. It was not a great painting, but it was colorful and it was fun. It was also a bit of a surprise, because for a while no one knew what it was. Then suddenly you could see the lion. So it won its round. In the final round, I painted huge poppies. Other paintings were good, but not bright or not something people understood. My poppies won. Of course, Jesse said, “Paint it big. Paint it red, and you can’t go wrong.