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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Why A Painting Needs a Story

'The Forever Flowers'          8x10           pastel          ©Karen Margulis   SOLD

There's a story behind this painting. There is a story behind most of my paintings. In fact I have noticed that the better paintings have more memorable stories. That isn't a coincidence. When we paint something that has meaning and stirs us we tend to paint with more emotion. We tend to do our best work when our subject speaks to us. Knowing why we want to paint something and painting something that has meaning will lead to stronger work.Here's how:
  • When we work from life or our own reference photos we have a personal connection to the subject. We have experience with it and understand it like no one else can. It is easier then to put our own unique spin on the subject. I tell my students that they should get into the habit of working from their own reference photos.
  • When we know the subject we can figure out why we want to paint it. As Richard McKinley told us in his workshop "If you don't know why then you won't know what"  If the subject has a story then it will have meaning for you.  You can then decide what it is about the subject that you want to express.
 Are you wondering what the story is behind this painting?  I am calling it 'The Forever Flowers' because I promised my friends that I would save these flowers forever in a painting. Here is why....

The cutting garden at the mountain house
Two weeks ago Jayne and I went to visit our friend Holly at her mountain house. She has a huge garden with half of it devoted to flowers. Her neighbor plants and tend the flowers. There are dahlias of all shapes and colors, zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers. I was in heaven! We went down to the garden several times a day to take photos in the changing light. We enjoyed the bees and hummingbirds and butterflies.

We love the flowers but don't like them to be cut. (deadheading is OK) Early the next morning the neighbor came and started cutting and making the bouquets that she sells at the market. Oh it was so sad to see those sunflowers cut down. And imagine our dismay when she brought a cut bouquet up to the house for us to enjoy. She meant well. She didn't quite get why we prefer our flowers growing and not cut. I told my friends that I would take pictures of the bouquet and paint them so that we would enjoy them forever.

I painted them on Diane Townsend pastel paper with a watercolor underpainting. I painted them from my heart. Jayne and Holly....here's to our Forever Flowers!


Lora said...

I agree with you. When I paint or draw a subject that has meaning to me, it usually turns out better. Also, when I view art that has a story, I enjoy it more. Great Job!

Julie Ford Oliver said...

This is a beautifully painted floral. Fresh and loose. Love your colors too.
We are all so different and while I applaud your opinion I hope you do not mind mine because
I love to cut my flowers and bring them in so I can enjoy painting them from life. I work better that way than from a photo.

Karen said...

Thanks Lora! I don't usually share the story behind the painting but i'll have to remember to do so more often!

Karen said...

I agree with you Julie about painting the flowers from life. It is so much better!! I want to have it both ways! :)

Vanessa said...

That's really sweet of you to share it with them that way. And even more interesting is hearing you talk about your work. I often find that just as exciting as the artwork itelf.

I also find that when we work on a painting hat has meaning it does seem to flow better but we also have a harder time parting with it when it finds a "new home".