Archive for March 31st, 2011

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.


-W.C. Fields
Okay, maybe those aren’t the most inspirational words ever uttered.
But I’ve been thinking about the nature of failing and succeeding ever since reader Tom Seltz posed a few questions on the subject to me the other day.  I wrote yesterday about how failure for what I do was truly subjective, completely comprised of shades of gray.  But as I thought about it through the day I came to same conclusion for what is considered success for my paintings.  The perceived success of a piece is also truly subjective.  It has happened many times that a piece that I felt succeededgreatly for me has languished and raised little attention in the galleries.  I know that this doesn’t necessarily designate it as a failure but it points out the subjective perception of art.
I think this differs for various types of art.  Obviously, in portraiture there are more objective aims that must be met in determining the success or failure of a piece.   Ask anyone who has taken on a portrait commission.  I immediately think here of a portrait of George Stephanopoulos that was painted by Joseph Solman in the 1990’s when Stephanopolous was still part of President Clinton’s team.  Solman, who died  in 2008 at the age of 98 and one of the leading lights of the Modernist movement of the 30’s, painted Stephanopoulos in tints of green.  I thought it was a spectacular painting, a rousing success, when I saw it but Stephanopoulos had a differing view, seeing it instead as a failure, refusing to buy it.  Two polar views of the same painting.  Sadly, I can’t find an image of it to show here.   Painters who work in an ultra-realistic manner face the same objective viewing of their work. 
My work tends to be more about expression and emotion rather than sheer representation so this creates even more gray area for objective analysis.  I don’t really care about exactitude in rendering so long as the emotion that I’m seeking comes out and a sense of rightness exists around whatever I am depicting.  While I don’t have a great concern for the object being perfect, it can’t be absolutely wrong.  This emotion and sense of rightness are the main objectives for my work  so there is little to go by as far as judging a work a failure or a success.  And I like that.  I would rather the individual judge my work for what they see and sense in it rather than than by having them judge how it compares to reality.
I know I’m way off target here and not sure I’ve made my point  but I’m leaving it to be at this point.  Keep in mind, this is just thinking out loud here.  I may change my mind about the whole thing completely by tomorrow. 

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