What’s to like?

12 x 12 collage

Recently, I showed 16 drawings to a friend. She said that she liked two of them. That got me to thinking about what “liking” a picture meant. My experience is that if you show a bunch of pictures to a bunch of different people, I get a bunch of different “likes” (or, of course, none at all.) And that got me thinking about how I judge my work and other’s work as well. I think that I divide work into three groups: “Successful,” Not so successful” and “I don’t understand.” The last grouping might contain both successful and not-so-successful work. So, what’s “successful” mean. I have some objective criteria. A successful work, in my view anyway, has to get an affirmative to all or most of the following questions: Does it make visual sense in terms of handling of light, color, line, form and composition? Is it visually intriguing in its complexity, ambiguity and movement? Does it seem spontaneous and look like it was easy to do (even though it most probably was not)? Does it get my attention, if not immediately then almost immediately, especially from across a room? And, finally, does it make me a little uneasy? “Not so successful” works don’t get a thumbs-up on any or most of these criteria, especially the last one. As I see it, if a picture doesn’t start you wondering what’s going on here, it isn’t working. That’s why I am always drawn to work that I don’t understand. And that includes my own stuff. You might find that odd; I estimate that I can’t figure out at least 30 or 40 percent of my own work. Why’d you draw it that way? Beats me. Most people seem drawn to works that are easy to figure out, something recognizable. That’s fine. It just isn’t where my head happens to be. Having said all that, I am always surprised at what any given individual might point to as a work of art that they like (or dislike). The16 drawings in questions are above. They are all 12 inches square, done in charcoal, pastel and Conte stick on Canson 65 pound drawing paper.

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About mmgilbert

I have been drawing and painting all my life. Now part of the “New Symbolist” movement which encompasses both Goth, fantasy and tattoo art as well as the century-old work of Odilon Redon, I focus on archetypal and mythic imagery to evoke emotional themes and to reference darker fantasies. I have an abiding interest in figurative drawing, working on paper and exploring new ways to handle traditional materials. I studied with Edward Millman, a WPA muralist; at Purchase College; and at the Art Students League in New York.
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