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Monday, October 24, 2005

Make art that says something.

In 1972 Edgar A. Whitney, the peripatetic dean of American watercolor, spoke at a meeting of a local art group in Dayton, Ohio. I quote Whitney often in my classes because what he said that evening made so much sense. I remind myself of these important points every time I paint: First of all, "Art is communication." You may not agree, but this is my belief.

If you do accept this first premise, ask yourself two important questions before you begin. First, "What do I want to say?" Second, "What's the best way to say it?"

If you don't answer the first question, you are, in effect, admitting that you have nothing to say or you don't care whether you say anything. If you are indifferent, why should a viewer be interested in your artwork?

If you do have something to say, think carefully about how to say it, so you can make a strong statement. Use color that resonates with your subject, an effective format, a design emphasis that makes your point. Don't settle for a random assembly of marks or bland color.

About art as communication: I think it matters that we show our "mudpies" to others to elicit a response. If you maintain that you're painting for yourself, then you are, in effect, confining yourself to a padded room, talking to yourself.

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