Friday, December 11, 2015

About v.s. Of: What Is Your Life Statement

There is an exercise that artists are encouraged to do regularly called writing an artist's statement.
At their worst artist's statements are pretentious, jargon filled, meaningless garble, and at their best succinct revelations baring the artist's soul.
Part of the problem is the confusion over 'about' and 'of'.

Of: the subject. My art is of.....
The subject seem's like it should be obvious, but artist are strange beasts, and often the subject isn't what you think it is. My friend Kit Cutting paint's wonderful dog portraits (amongst other things) often featuring very old dogs. Her painting of my Rolley is a great example.
Jack Russell Terrier, painting
Rolley, by Kit Cutting

It's a painting of a dog, a very old dog (he was 18 when this was done) but more than that it's a painting of love.
Kit is a dedicated foster parent to rescued dogs, she has a special fondness for old dogs, or geezers as she calls them. She has devoted a considerable amount of her life to finding homes that will love the old ones till the end of their days. The love they give back is guaranteed, and her paintings always are OF this, and of the wisdom of the aged ones.
I paint landscape, seem's simple enough. The funny thing is that for years I resisted painting landscape because 'everybody did it'. I slowly came to the realization that painting landscape didn't necessarily mean 'just' painting pretty pictures, landscape can have a voice. My OF is micro habitats.
I'm a dedicated natural gardener, my property is certified as a backyard habitat. I raise monarch butterflies, rescue salamanders from under the treads of bulldozers, and grow native plants that some think are weeds. This is what my art is also OF.

So what the heck is it ABOUT then?
ABOUT is more the mechanical nuts and bolts kind of stuff.
Many artists work is ABOUT the play of light, or immersion in colour often it's about the tension between light and dark, upright and horizontal, foreground and background, etc etc.
For me the first ABOUT is the abstract patterns that comprise the landscape, the designs found in the fields and wild spaces and those magical places where the two collide. Where the casual observer sees helter skelter  patches I see interwoven pattern.
Secondly I see texture. It's not grass or scrubby shrubs, is bold uprights and lacy caps, intertwining lines, and bursts of textural energy.
Third I see the play of light, fractured as it bounces off textures, becoming colours to delight our eyes.
So that's my OF and ABOUT.

What about you, what are you OF and ABOUT? you don't have to be an artist, all meaningful lives are OF and ABOUT something....
Perhaps writing a life statement is something we all should indulge in from time to time.


  1. Thanks for including me in your articles. It is a great honour when a fellow artist gets your art. The fact that you are a friend too is icing on the cake.

  2. Beautiful painting, Kit! Thanks Robin for clarifying the OF and ABOUT for an Artist Statement. I agree with the idea of having too much jargon; trying to explain the ideal of what we think artists should sound like. I believe less is more in a lot of cases. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I'm still new at the blog thing so any helpful hints would be gratefully appreciated. :)

  3. Thanks Shirley. The best advise I can give a new blogger not to listen to too much advise lol. When I started I read every how to column and article and tried to do it perfectly.
    Use your 'real voice'. I used to be so concerned about blogging on schedule like the gurus say you should that content sometimes took a back set. Now I only blog when I have something to say,
    I have other blogs that I post work on, and this one has become my mental rambles.
    Enjoy the process!


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