Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"the thing"

Original oil painting  14x18"
by Susan Roux

What are you striving to capture in your paintings?

Place a bunch of artists in front of the same scene or set-up and everyone has a different interpretation. Are we not seeing the same colors? Are we not seeing the same light?

There is much more to painting than meets the eye...

Emotion. Our own unique response to whatever subject we choose to paint. Even the same artist on a different day will interpret the same subject differently. Who we are. What we are. Everything we've been through physically and emotionally effects how we place paint to canvas. I've been reminded of this recently.

I've noticed over the years when my actual life feels out of my control, my art tightens. It's as though I'm looking to have control over something when everything else feels chaotic. I have a student who reacts completely in the opposite way. She unleashes wildly and boldly in an emotional abstract outpour that has the illusion of somebody screaming!

What happens to your art when life feels out of your control?

Even when life is going along normally, we focus on capturing different things. Is it a feeling you're trying to capture? Perhaps creating an ambiance? It is technical fundamentals? Is it certain colors you wish to play with?

When we decide on a subject to paint, there is something about that subject that spoke to us to make us choose it over all other subjects at that moment. What is that something? What was it about your subject that spoke to you? Whatever it was: the shadow play, the colors, the movement, the serenity, the lines, the structure... This should be your top priority. This should be "the thing" you're trying to capture. It is where your passion lies.

No one will feel about "the thing" exactly like you do. What captures you about the subject is what you should be striving to capture in your painting.

Ignore all those voices in your head that are telling you so and so said I should do it like this or so and so would do it this way. When you're trying too hard to focus on someone else's method, you're not following your own unique voice. Yes there are those times of learning/studying which require thought about the teacher's words. But any other time, the only thing you should be following is your own gut feeling. Let that brush go on auto pilot. Focus on "the thing" that inspired you to paint your subject. Exaggerate it even, so your viewers won't miss it. Everything else will fall into place.

When it comes to art the thing is, expressing "the thing" is what it's always been all about.


  1. such a feeling of peace and serenity in this painting my friend! Beautifully done and wonderful post!

  2. Susan, please please please write a book for artists! I will be the first in line to buy it! Your posts are so insightful and make so much sense to me. You always address something that I know can improve my own art, and I know I can do it. You inspire and challenge me as an artist with every post. Thank you!

  3. Absolutely brilliant, Susan!
    Everything is perfect about your still-life painting: the composition, the schadow and lights, the use of color and the ambiance!
    Very well done!!

  4. Oh my goodness Susan!! This is an amazing post and I want to yell out..yes!!! I recently went to my workshop where I painted a piece and the instructor told me not to do it that way because it wasn't the way it should be...but like you said, this is how I saw it. I changed it to make her happy but I wasn't happy. I agree with Katherine ..I would be the second on line to buy your book! thank you.!!

  5. So true! We all see things differently and interpret differently. This is a lovely still nice to see your work again. I hope your gallery is coming together.

  6. Thank you for this post, Susan. There is so much more to painting than just the fundamentals and the physical process of applying paint to canvas. There is the artists soul, vision, emotion, life experience, intellect and on and on. These things are conveyed along with every brush stroke. I don't know why I go through periods of looseness and periods of tightness but I will pay closer attention after reading your words. I find I paint my best when I am truly loving my subject and have a grand sense of excitement about it!

  7. How true about focusing on the 'thing' and how often we get sidetracked. One needs to put a note on the easel that says 'focus on the thing'. Such great light in that painting Susan!

  8. Susan!
    Excuse an old hippy expression but "Right on!"
    A great post.
    Wonderful words and a beautiful painting. Love the colors and light. Great mood.
    Great skill and interpretation!

  9. Yes, a great post and all the same kinds of confirmations and doubts that we all keep trying to remember. A lovely painting as well, the violets are so rich!

  10. L'effervescence et l'excitation du sujet mêlées à la spontanéité et la sincérité apportent en ce qui me concerne une interprétation, ma propre interprétation. Peu importe qu'elle convienne ou pas. Seul le bonheur qu'elle me procure me satisfait. Ensuite si ce bonheur quelqu'un d'autre peut s'en emparer, je n'en suis que plus heureuse.
    Je suis une incorrigible et capricieuse artiste !...
    Tes caprices à toi ma chère Susan sont bien délicieux !
    Une très belle peinture... qui en dit long!!... Je ne suis pas tout à fait certaine que cette bonne bouteille de vin resta pleine longtemps !
    Sourire !... Gros bisous


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