Inspiration Fridays! How can a painting talk?

8paint Blog - Inspiration Friday - How can a painting talk?

How can a painting talk?

This is my 100th Inspiration Friday! Thanks for reading and joining in!

“You might as well ask an artist to explain his art, or ask a poet to explain his poem. It defeats the purpose. The meaning is only clear through the search.” – Rick Riordan

Standing in front of a painting by Gauguin, I’m transported. His work takes me out of the d’Orsay and drops me off in the state of Wonder, leaving me stranded, with a bag lunch and bus fare. Lost, somewhere between flatness and form, color and light.

Maybe you can help me to decipher the rich meaning and spirit embodied in his art. Gauguin fell in love with ideas his words failed to describe, so he painted them. The canvas gave him permission and a voice. Sometimes what surfaced wasn’t particularly comfortable or even welcome. His paintings found their form in chaos, abstraction, and those parts of him that lived both selfishly and universally.

Life holds a bit of everything. Love and kindness, fear and hate. The best work holds all of these dichotomies up for us to see without taking a side or choosing a team.

Some of my best paintings hang happily on my walls at home, while others have been damned to a life of purgatory in the storage racks above my studio. This half-life may be enough for me, but the paintings are restless. They long to speak, and be spoken about. That’s hard for me sometimes because I hear their murmuring, and wonder if there’s anything to be done about it. They ask to be painted over and given a new voice, to live again on a stranger’s wall, or at least, to be given a proper burial.

Great paintings are reborn in the presence of the viewer. This second life begins not on the artist’s easel, but on the walls of our homes, galleries, and museums. Now, they reflect an opinion. They’re being seen.

They speak to you using irony, sorrow, birth, laughter, war, beauty, or maybe even grace. All of these things emerge from the viewer’s willingness to see and engage. It’s our response to the work that gives art its longevity.


Inspiration Friday - How can a painting talk? (Arearea - Paul Gauguin - 1892)

Arearea – Paul Gauguin – 1892

When you make the decision to create, and then follow through with that decision, and begin, you have entered the ring. You are in the game. The more you are willing to give to the game, the richer that game will be.

Your commitment and determination imbue your paintings with the charge that holds the viewer captive. (Some paintings are so infused with the artist’s passion that it becomes almost impossible to escape or even look away.)  But the outcome of this great enterprise is never yours to determine. That can only be discovered once you’ve done your bit and then let it go.  Offering your work up to the world so that it may be seen.

For the beginner, the focus should only be on making art. Imaging who might see your work or where it will eventually end up is a perfect recipe for overwhelm. It leads to inaction and overthinking. Just make your paintings.

The act of painting isn’t for anyone else but you. It gives you peace and purpose, it’s thrilling, and at times, painful. Painting is its own reward. We simultaneously create and receive.

At the end of the day, after you’ve played your part, something shifts. Unless you keep them locked away, your paintings are no longer yours alone. They have something to say beyond what you’ve intended. So send them off into the world with your blessing. Sharing your excitement for what you’ve created is inspiring and welcome.

We don’t need to see another masterpiece to be touched by the power of art. But we do need to be reminded that new art is being made. Beauty continues to show up in all of its mystery. Art speaks ineffably, in a language without words, so each of us might take a moment to discover the meaning for ourselves.

Have you ever asked a painting what it means?

Can a painting change your mind?

What’s the difference between painting and looking?

How can a painting talk?

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