The Art of Choosing: Finding the Perfect Subject for a Painting

In the realm of art, the choice of subject is a deeply personal and expressive decision, akin to a musician selecting a song. An artist’s chosen subject serves as a canvas for their personality, abilities, and the messages they wish to convey to their audience. The quest for the “perfect” subject is subjective, as possibilities range from natural wonders like waterfalls and sunsets to the captivating profiles of models. What truly makes a subject “perfect”?

The Essence of Presentation

Renowned artist Raoul Dufy emphasizes that the intrinsic value of a subject is negligible; what truly matters is the manner in which it is presented. This notion suggests that the artist’s interpretation, style, and perspective play pivotal roles in transforming an ordinary subject into an extraordinary work of art. The subject itself becomes a vehicle for the artist’s unique expression.

Beyond Subject Matter: Content and Feelings

Art historian Rene Huyghe challenges the conventional understanding of subject matter, introducing the concept of content. He argues that content encompasses all the feelings and ideas an artist brings to their painting. The subject becomes a conduit for emotional and intellectual expression, transcending its literal representation. In this view, a “perfect” subject is one that resonates with the artist on a deeper level, offering a rich palette of emotions and ideas to explore.

The Magical Urge: Randall Sexton’s Perspective

Painter Randall Sexton introduces the idea of a magical “urge” and excitement that must accompany the choice of a subject. This intangible force, an artist’s internal inspiration, is crucial for the success of a painting. Sexton implies that a genuine connection between the artist and the subject is essential for a work to truly come to life.

Discerning Selection: CJ Rider’s Wisdom

CJ Rider’s perspective offers a cautionary note on the abundance of choices. Merely because a subject is present doesn’t mandate its selection for a painting. This viewpoint encourages artists to exercise discernment and prioritize subjects that align with their artistic vision and resonate deeply.

The Artist’s Journey: Subject Choosing as a Reflection

For many artists, the process of selecting a subject is intertwined with their attitude, mindset, and even serendipity. Whether inspired by a long-held idea or a sudden, transcendent impression, the artist’s journey in choosing a subject can be as significant as the resulting painting. In some instances, the subject seems to choose the artist, demanding to be painted.

W.I.L.: What’s Important Long-Term?

In the vein of choosing subjects for paintings, the author introduces the acronym “W.I.L.”—What’s Important Long-Term? This serves as a guiding principle to focus on the lasting, significant, and memorable aspects of a subject. It encourages artists to consider the enduring impact of their chosen subjects rather than being bogged down by transient details.

Beyond Obvious Appearances: The Lasting and the Lesser

The enduring value of a painting, according to the author, lies in the artist’s ability to focus on “What’s Important Long-Term.” A memorable painting is one invested with the artist’s love for life, passion for the subject, and a clear message. The artist’s choices and priorities manifest in the artwork, creating a unique connection with the viewer.

Painting with Purpose, Passion, and Personal Insight

The key to creating memorable paintings lies in the artist’s decision to infuse a particular subject with their interpretation and excitement. The process is driven by the artist’s desire to produce a clear translation of their idea, resulting in maximum visual and emotional impact. Forgettable paintings often lack a unique vision or a deep emotional response to the subject, presenting only its obvious appearance.

Antoine de Sainte-Exupery’s Insight

The poignant quote by Antoine de Sainte-Exupery underscores the importance of seeing with the heart. Painting with passion, familiarity, and intensity allows artists to create works that are purposeful, passionate, and personal. Such paintings leave a lasting impression, inviting viewers to engage with the unique and profound perspectives of the artist.

In conclusion, the search for the perfect subject in painting is a nuanced and introspective journey. It involves delving into the artist’s emotions, priorities, and unique vision to create works that transcend the ordinary, leaving an indelible mark on the canvas and in the hearts of those who view them.