Matisse and Simplicity

Not long ago two friends and I were viewing the Matisse (Henri Emile Benoit Matisse, French, 1869 – 1954) exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. As we were slowing moving from drawing to drawing in the first room as we studied and enjoyed those framed, beautiful, images of his earlier works (as you probably know, Matisse is most famous for his bright colored paintings of women and flowers and then later for his torn-paper collages and serigraphs) one of my friends said, “your drawings are better, Jo.” I took that as a huge compliment of course but I understood what she meant. Those drawings of the human figure by Matisse are like my current drawings in that we use line to describe the human figure. Some viewers see it as an outline or at the very least, the most minimal of solid lines to “tell the story” of the model. The lines are continuous and drawn in fluid movements. To do this takes practice and more practice. There is no covering up or erasing a black ink line gone bad. A goof means to toss out the paper.

When I was using film and a 35mm camera years ago, I was taught and came to recognize that if I got one image from a roll of 36 deemed worthy of printing and displaying, then I was successful. With drawings it is the same. If I get one drawing that is worth keeping and displaying from a 3-hour drawing session, I have a valid reason to consider it a success. I have to set all the drawings aside and later take them from the portfolio to view with more objectivity. I make the decision…the best one(s) go in the to-be-scanned stack to be used for my archive and for exhibition submissions. I have been known to tear off a small section that is well done and keep it. I may be able to salvage parts to be used for smaller drawings. The rest go into the recycle bin. There is nothing to be gained by keeping the less successful drawings. Sometimes, I can go weeks without getting a real keeper of a drawing. Editing in photography and drawing is an important skill. But just like anything other skill development…it is vital to keep practicing, so I keep drawing.

Questions People Have Asked Me About Art

Family and friends have been known to ask about how to talk to an artist about her/his/their work such as in a gallery or exhibition. 

Here are two examples of actual inquiries I've received:  What do I say to an artist at this gallery opening? How do I know if the painting/print/sculpture/photograph I like is really good? 

A really courageous person will even ask me about why I draw the way the way I draw. Sometimes, I even sense there is a question unspoken so I have been known to start the conversation. Questions about the art are appropriate to ask of any artist—amateur or professional. 1) It helps you learn about the work or the process, and 2) it helps the artist learn how to talk about her/his/their work. Here are two easy ways to express your question: “Tell me about this work?” (Even pick an artwork you particularly are drawn toward.) or...“What do you like most about your own artwork?  Great conversation starters. But, remember, some artists can go on and on and on. Don't hestitate to say "Thanks for your time, let me look at some of the other works."

As far as purchasing and whether something is “art” or worth the price? Of course that is an individual choice. I say buy what you really like and get to know as much about the art and artist as possible before purchasing. If you cannot tell if it’s a watercolor or a print then ask the gallery or artist. Ask every question you think of. My last recommendation…buy the best piece you can. And, if you really like it…you will find room for it. Also, If you know the artist and there is an opening of her/his/their work you want to attend--go early. Often the best pieces or the least expensive pieces will go first. Price does not indicate better or worse either. Smaller works may be less expensive.