LEARNING TO LOOK AT ART

(Note: I've switched to a new "delivery service" called Follow.it as Feedburner is being discontinued in a few weeks. I'm not great at technology, so you may get this twice.)

I have a show coming up, my very first solo show. I'm excited yet at the same time a bit anxious. I want people to like my art, to enjoy it, to take the time to really look at it. After all, I've worked hard and put my heart & soul into this exhibition.

I've been to a lot of art shows over the years, and I'm realizing now just how many times I've walked through and not really looked at a lot of the art. I think we tend to only hone in to what grabs our attention, whether a bold colour, a style or subject we like, or maybe just something different that catches our eye. We are often quick to judge or bypass a piece after only a fleeting glance.

But when we do stop to look, there is a lot more to see than first meets the eye. 

I think we haven't been taught how to look at art. I know how I feel when visitors just walk past my booth with nary a glance. Perhaps they are afraid of feeling pressured to chat or buy, or are on their way to a specific artist's booth, or simply have no interest in my style of art. But mostly it's that they haven't taken the time to stop and look, to be immersed in it, to enjoy and appreciate what went into the creations we artists make and the stories we tell.

So here are my tips on looking at art:

  • Don't just walk past every single booth or wall. Stop and look. We can miss a lot if we only send a glance art's way. Sometimes it's a friend we are with who will stop - and suddenly through them we start to see what we had not seen before. 
  • Look beyond the landscape or colour that you first see. Just like when at a lake, we don't see those little fish close to shore until we stop and look into the water, we need to look into the art to see the layers, to see what what was not at first obvious to the eye. 
  • You'll start to see the layers that are more than paint or fabric, the materials used, embellishments buried in the art. I may add paper to mine, or bits of old photographs, maybe some words, packing materials, a stone or a piece of fallen bark. Even the stitches I choose are meant to reflect the effect I'm trying to convey. All these add depth that is definitely not apparent at first.
  • Look at the colours used. Are they harmonious or jarring? Did the artist choose a colour you didn't expect? Do you like the combination chosen?
  • When was the last time you looked up at clouds to find shapes? As with clouds, find the shapes and lines in the art, the soft & hard edges, flat versus textured or puffy areas.  Do these juxtapositions make some areas pop more than others? 
  • Sometimes an unusual perspective has been presented. Be aware if the piece evokes a memory, or brings up some emotion, or sings to you. Is there a story the artist was trying to tell? Look for clues here.
  • Underlying all these are the emotions the artist was feeling while creating. And the reactions of the viewers. Sharing thoughts on a piece with a friend can add a perspective we may not have thought of. Be open.
By learning to look, we begin to understand the elements and the journey of the artist while creating. We begin to appreciate the techniques used, the planning that goes into the composition and design, any messages and story the artist may be trying to tell.

We can then begin to experience the art and become immersed in what it has to say. Take your time, look, then look beyond. And help others to see art as you have now learned to see and experience it.





REFLECTIONS ON A SOLO EXHIBITION

When a friend applied for an exhibition at a city gallery several years back, well meaning friends told her it was unlikely she'd be acc...

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