Bluebells, Acrylic, 36 x 24 inches, ©Lynn Goldstein
How often are you reminded of a loved one in your past when you hear a specific song, smell a familiar smell, or look at a photograph? Visual art can also remind you of someone who means or meant a great deal to you. When that happens it can feel like magic. This is one of the many ways that art can help us to heal. If we are reminded of a lost loved one because of imagery in visual art, we can be comforted by the experience.
When I went to pick up payment for a painting that I sold recently (the one pictured above), I was touched to the core by what the collector told me.
First of all, she mentioned that this was the first "real" art that she had ever purchased. I was surprised at how uplifting her words were. Then she went further in her comments about the painting. She said that her mother had passed away 9 years ago. She had no photographs of her mother around her home because seeing the photographs saddened her.
One day, while passing by my painting, she was struck by it. The woman portrayed in the painting made her think of her beloved mother. She couldn't see her face in the painting, but felt her beautiful mother was portrayed there, and the painting made her happy. Unlike the photographs that she hides of her mother, this painting doesn't add to her grief. Instead, the painting helps her to feel her mother's presence and makes her feel better.
Just last month a similar thing happened to me. I'll explain.
Royal typewriter and Typewriter print by Valerie Stemac
My father died when I was 25 years old. He still remains one of the best people I have ever known.
He was a fast and furious typist, and typed all his correspondence to me after I left home. He used a Royal typewriter that looks like the one pictured above. He hit the keys so hard that the back of the typing paper would sometimes look like braille. I loved getting his letters, and can't see a typewriter of any stripe and not think of him.
While in my studio building, I saw that one of my fellow artists, Valerie Stemac, was working on prints that illustrated an old typewriter. I was so happy seeing that artwork. Memories flooded back to me. All these years later, and that print made me smile as I thought of my beloved father, and felt his presence healing me from my loss so long ago. Valerie was kind enough to give me a tote bag with her typewriter print on it.
Art can challenge us, disturb us, and make us think, but it's ability to heal us and bring us peace is equally important ... and lovely. Please tell me what you think. Has a piece of art helped to remind you of someone you held dear? Just leave a comment below by hitting comment. Thanks for reading!
After leading tours recently, I spent some time in the galleries at SAAM,
and was moved by this small painting by Asher Durand.
As a tour leader (docent) at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), I have the opportunity to visit the museum on a regular basis. Fortunately, NPG shares space with the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). When time permits, I visit that area of the museum to get some inspiration.
Years ago I considered concentrating on portraiture, which is why I began my tenure at NPG.
It didn't take long for me to realize that portraiture was not my calling, but the landscape was pretty much shouting my name.
Little did I know that one of the artists that has inspired me went through a similar change of subject matter.
Asher Durand began his art career as an engraver, but also made many portraits before finding his way to the landscape. It’s safe to say that Durand adored the landscapes that he painted and studied. He could determine a species of tree even from a distance, a skill I admire greatly.
We can learn a lot from artists of the past. Durand was an avid plein air painter, which is a great way to improve as a landscape artist. Another way to improve is to dedicate time to sketching. Durand was devoted to sketching.
Years ago I was told that the best way to improve as an artist was to sketch. I agree.
Part of my process includes making sketches to establish the darks and lights prior to making my final painting. In fact, I feel as if I am driving without a seatbelt if I don't make a sketch prior to beginning a painting.
Asher B. Durand, Woodland Glen, Oil on Canvas (and black and white sketch I made of same)
Take a look at the simplified black and white sketch of this painting by Durand above. You will see that this piece would work well as an abstract artwork. The shapes are interesting and there is a clear dominant value.
Durand’s larger academy style paintings inspire me less than his sketches and smaller paintings, because I tend to lean toward a more expressive, contemporary style. That said, there is much to enjoy when looking at Durand’s work.
When I look at his Woodland Glen, I want to be in that location. Viewers of my work kindly say the same thing.
Durand showed much more detail in his work than I ever want to show in my own, but I can truly appreciate his compositional structure here. The large trees in the foreground give way to an opening that allows the viewer into the picture plane. This is a compositional consideration that is beneficial in many landscape paintings, and one that I am itching to explore more.
Below is an example of a recent painting of mine with my simplified preliminary sketch. Here you can see how I established my composition prior to making the final painting.
Bluebells & Friends, Oil on Canvas, 12x9 inches, ©Lynn Goldstein
Art and Life. Here you will find out more about my life as an artist.