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Ideas in Words and Images

Many thanks to Anita Saunders for sharing this blog with us.



What were you thinking?

Anita Saunders • Jul 26, 2021

Can sharing your thoughts add value?

There’s no greater compliment for me as an artist than when someone is so captivated by my work, they want to make a place for it in their home.


Wracked with self-doubt about my ability, as many of us ‘arty types’ are, I am always incredibly humbled and outstandingly grateful for these explicit endorsements of the work I produce.


Let’s face it, art is subjective. It can be hard to quantify just why a particular painting, print, or sculpture speaks to us. Twenty different people can interpret the same image twenty different ways. However, as individuals, we know when something captivates us to the extent that we must have it.


What’s going on?


What is not always apparent though, is what was going on in the head of the artist as the piece came into being. How many times have you stood in front of a painting and thought about the artist who made it? Wouldn’t you just love to know what was going on in their minds? What made them tick?


Some work needs no explanation. Its message is explicit – a reaction to a certain policy, event, or environmental issue but the image alone is not the whole picture (pardon the pun).


When viewing a well-known Van Gogh painting, the treatment of the subject matter and the medium he used conveys the highly charged emotions of the man himself, even though the finished piece is a sun-filled wheat field, a sunflower, or a simple chair.


For most artists, it’s probably fair to say their thoughts and feelings can only be guessed at when looking at their finished work. This is especially true as time ticks by; we lose the ability to grasp meaning once obvious to the artists’ contemporaries. What hope do we have of understanding the thoughts of the artist themselves? Does it really matter? Do we need to know what was in an artist’s mind to appreciate the end result? Ultimately, I guess the answer is no, as it’s the artwork that stands the test of time. However, many of us who’ve had the opportunity to speak to people who’ve visited our exhibitions pre Covid, know from experience how talking about our approach, the inspiration, and why we felt compelled to create our work, is valued by our clients. Having the insight direct from the work’s creator adds to the experience of investing in the artwork and the artist.


Put it in writing


Earlier this year, I was asked to share my thoughts on what had led to the creation of some paintings a valued client had set her heart on, including ‘Autumn Icon’ pictured here. Gladly I set about my task and discovered I’d embarked on some serious soul searching.


Putting my thoughts in writing not only recorded my inspiration and earnest conscious intentions as I‘d started painting but also took me right back to my childhood. Memories of losing myself in the huge, musty, art and historical books with their shiny illustrative plates which captivated me flooded back. I saw how early exposure to pictures of religious icons and illuminated manuscripts ignited my love of gilding. My love of nature found its roots in tramping through fields and bottle-feeding lambs in the barn with my grandfather. I touched on deep-seated personal regrets, and I became acutely aware that, as with many things in life, it’s our childhood experiences that shape us.


Sharing my thoughts and emotions in this way with my client was valuable to us both. It brought to the fore things I instinctively felt but hadn’t necessarily articulated and resonated with what my client felt about the paintings. It reinforced my long-held beliefs about the importance and fragility of our natural world and the creatures within it. It crystallised my intent to try to exert a subtle influence for good through the work I produce; something my client was quick to recognise and support. Please don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions of grandeur, but I do care about what I do and there is thought behind it.


Richer understanding and mutual respect


I know my words resonate with my client. Her intellect and insight command my respect and admiration. Our email exchange on the back of this additional interaction has led to a richer understanding and mutual respect. It’s also furnished me with the most incredible feedback which gets me back on track whenever the self-doubt takes hold (priceless).


I am eternally grateful to this very special person who has placed her faith, energy, support, and financial investment both in my work and in me as an artist. I thank her for asking me to share my thoughts and urge fellow artists to do the same whenever the opportunity arises. Taking a little time to explain in writing how your work came to be, could prove to be a very worthwhile investment for all.


I've been saving this blog until now because I'm delighted that Cindy Mobey, professional writer and marketing consultant, is our guest speaker at the Living from Art meeting on Thursday 14 October. Her session on writing about your art is a great starting point for everyone who wants to develop their writing skills to do justice to their art. Booking at www.livingfromart.co.uk/events-training

Anna


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