Thursday, March 21, 2013

Conch Shell and Choosing Subject Matter

Conch Shell

When I choose a subject I look for two things, first it must present a set of visual challenges and second I must have some connection to it. It must “say” something to me, that can be either a pure aesthetic experience or a emotional link. This is where the concept of any painting starts, no matter how elaborate the idea or simple the subject matter may be, without these two essentials you can not communicate anything beyond the literal.

However, as I work I pay little attention to the subject matter, I concentrate on the abstract pictorial qualities that make up an image, this is what intrigues and excites me when I paint; that painters zone, to transcend the subject through a honest emotional response to those abstract qualities of shapes, colors, values, light, space, and attempt to translate that into some poetic image.

Thinking of it in this way -  you realize the subject chooses the artist.

We have had a gutful of fast art and food.
What we need more of is slow art: art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception and making whose skill and doggedness make you think and feel; art that isn’t merely sensational that doesn’t get its message across in 10 seconds, that isn’t falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures.

Art Critic and Historian - 1938 - 2012
From a speech given at the London Royal Academy, June 2004
Link to article and video about Robert Hughes

Conch Shell, oil on panel, 5"x 7"
Retrieved from the beach of Cancun, Mexico.
Available in Gallery

Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim


  1. That's lovely, Jim. Yesterday I was just re-reading one of your wonderful posts over on wetcanvas. Thank you, just absolutely thank you, for sharing :) Karen

    1. I wonder if the shell painting is not just about my desire to be somewhere warmer.
      Thanks Karen, you are very much appreciated.

  2. This conch is beautiful, and I like what you say about choosing a subject.
    I agree too, with Robert Hughes, about fast art, like fast food. After a while, we are fed up, and want to come back to beautiful and simple things.

    1. It is always interesting that beauty and simplicity seem to be harmonious, that they will and do continue to resurface in art.
      As poetically stated -

      “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all.”
      John Keats

      Thank you for your thoughts.

  3. Hello Jim. I finally got around to getting the more active blogs that I want to follow onto my page. Now I can see when there are new posts. So I will be visiting more regularly now.

    1. Thanks for following Kevin, I have enjoyed/followed your site and appreciate the work you share. Good to exchange with you.

  4. I love this post. You put in words something I have sensed in choosing a subject, but could not have verbalized. Thanks for sharing!