I like comments on my paintings; they are always positive and encouraging. And I like having followers, of course. I comment back, in a positive and encouraging vein, and I in turn become a follower. I think enough of my work to believe the person commenting to have been sincere. The work I see of others is to a surprising degree of a high standard, so it has so far been easy for me to be sincere in offering positive comments.
Nevertheless, I have some slight misgivings about what seems to be the prevailing art blog climate of positive and encouraging comments. These arise chiefly from questions I have about my own paintings, such as: are my subjects of any interest or relevance to people? Should I become more exacting, more enamoured of realism, than I already am (and use nothing but Nr 1 brushes!)? Are my colours harmonious, or should they be, if they are? I like composition that is slightly askew, but does anybody else?etc. Maybe messaging has its limitations, and even a line or two of serious, perhaps sometimes negative criticism, or alternative suggestion-offering, runs too high a risk of giving offence to no purpose. But I’m not sure. I really would like to see others’ views on this.
I’m uneasily reminded of the philosopher, Karl Popper, who saw negative criticism as having a positive effect – and as being essential for progress in a civilization as in the individual: ‘For all of us, in all our activities, the notions that we can do better only by finding out what can be improved and then improving it; and therefore that shortcomings are to be actively sought out, not concealed, or passed over; and that critical comment from others, far from being resented, is an invaluable aid to be insisted on and welcomed, are liberating to a remarkable degree’ [Bryan Magee, Philosophyand the Real World, an Introduction to KarlPopper, Open Court, p.37].
Ironically, Popper himself was, I’m told, easily irritated by any negative criticism. Maybe it would require a revolution in the individual and society before such criticism would be actively sought, let alone welcomed.
So, alongside Popper we recall the forthright Alceste, protagonist of Molière’s Le Misanthrope, sincerely not praising poor Oronte’s wretched sonnet – and making no friend in the process!
I’m indebted to Michelle Burnett’s Following the Masters challenge for the month of March, the subject for which is the Renaissance, for this fantasy attempt to combine Uccello’s hunting scene with part of Botticelli’s evocation of spring -- and to include a modern onlooker, the young woman in the blue-green blouse and scarlet skirt, who is unsure whether what she sees or thinks she sees is real or imaginary.
In beginning this painting I had in mind the small egg tempera and walnut oil work of Paolo Uccello known as St George and the Dragon, in the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris. Uccello's work is a marvel of simply disposed and powerful imagery. Three figures -- maiden, dragon, knight -- take up the foreground in narrative sequence. The lady first; she has/had a problem. The dragon, her problem, comes next. And then the solution: the knight on his white charger. But there's a double layer to the positioning and timing: the dragon has been struck by the knight's lance; and -- returning to the maiden -- we see that she is already preparing to give grateful thanks. It's the old jaded story: damsel in distress, the Perils of Pauline, the plot of endless t.v. and film dramas of today. Yet the narrative complexity engages us. And there's more: stretching into the distance on the other side of the dragon's cave cultivated fields are laid out in orderly, geometric fashion, signifying fruitfulness; they lead on to a white castellated fortress, the home awaiting George and his lady.
The fantastic ballet of spears, horses and knights in Uccello's three paintings of The Battle of San Romano and his eerie hunting scenes, were appreciated in his day, then forgotten; to be rediscovered in the 20th centruy by Cubists and Surrealists.
In omitting the dragon's cave and background landscape, and deploying odds and ends meant to suggest other works of the Renaissance, I've chosen to emphasize the fantastic side of Uccello, while sacrificing the purity and stylized simplicity of the original.
Painting and writing -- I've never known which of the two I want to do more. So why not both?
But I've come to realize that the writing tends to be lengthy, and may be too controversial, for a blog. So it won't be so much in evidence as my occasional absences from painting because of it.
I'm not a painting-a-day person. My Muses are fickle maidens and often skip away for weeks.
I think the subject of a painting should be intrinsically interesting -- and never far removed from the human.