Saturday, March 13, 2010

Evening Stars
16x 16 Oil on Panel

Last week was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frédéric Chopin and to my great delight his music has been playing frequently on the radio. Not an hour goes by without a nocturne or an étude, a mazurka or a polonaise. Anyone who plays the piano knows his music well, and many professional pianists have made recordings of their favorite Chopin pieces. I've heard a variety of interpretations of his work over the past two weeks and frankly some were much better than others. The music is so glorious that even the more mundane performances were beautiful. Some musicians seemed to feel that the music speaks for itself and played the notes as precisely as they could while others sought to bring out the meaning of the score. So I began to ask myself why one performance made my heart soar while another did not. Then of course, because I cannot take a breath without thinking about painting, I began to wonder how this applies to good painting. There are schools in painting that agree with the first group of pianists, who feel that the subject matter speaks for itself and the artist should render it as accurately as possible. Others feel they can add to their work by expressing something more than just what they see before them. I belong to the latter group. I happily paint what I see before me but I also paint what I perceive. I cannot see space or weight yet they are important to my interpretation of what I am looking at. I can't see character or personality but they are vital to a good portrait. I might draw a head correctly and copy the color perfectly but that doesn't mean that my portrait will make make my heart soar. Consequently my poor students have had to endure me saying over and over again "Don't just paint the notes, paint the music".....