How Will You Decide?
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A virtual tour of Parklane Gallery in September, 2020
How Will You Decide?
by Marne Jensen
Let’s assume that you’d like to have a piece of artwork to enhance your home or office. Be it painting, photograph, glasswork, or sculpture (to name a few), how will you decide which one to choose? In the process of making this decision, you’ll probably think about several factors. For instance, will it be a piece you love to look at, is it appropriate in size and scale for the intended space, and is it something you can afford? Beyond this, however, you will have a lot of choices, so here are some thoughts and ideas that might make help choosing that special piece a little easier. Keep in mind that this is highly subjective and individual, so this is a very generalized approach.
Offered here are some basic guidelines about art appreciation and, more specifically, how to make an informed judgment about a particular piece, i.e., a critique based upon specific criteria. If someone asks you why you chose a certain piece, your answer is likely going to be “because I love it,” and this adage may also follow, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” These are valid reasons. But in addition to that, what other elements are involved that made you like and/or love one special piece rather than another? Or if you are choosing between two that you love, how do you decide which one?
Please remember that these concepts are ideas – not rules. They are a brief outline of some of the elements you might want to look at and consider. Good artwork should incorporate at least some, if not all, of the following:
How does this piece speak to you? Does it create emotion, intellectual enjoyment, or spiritual enlightenment? The art should be telling you a story, giving a message, or creating an idea or feeling. When looking at it, does it make you feel happy, or reminiscent, or calm… or even excited? Something needs to happen when you look at the piece, and the content is the first step.
Is there a dominant feature that pulls your eye into the piece, an irresistible attraction for you related to subject matter, color, arrangement, texture or shape that is pleasing or interesting? Possibly a combination of one or more of those? Is it serene or is it energetic, complex, or simple?
BALANCE AND UNITY
Does the artwork achieve what feels like a balanced composition, (even though it may be asymmetrical), and does it feel like a cohesive whole rather than pieces that may not fit well together? Are all the elements integrated in such a way that they are unified and pleasing to the eye?
Are the shapes arranged dynamically and a feeling that nothing can be added or subtracted without impairing the unity of the composition? Features of design can include contrast, rhythm, repetition, and gradation in addition to those elements listed above.
FOCAL POINT OR CENTER OF INTEREST
While not an essential, most good art will have a center of interest or a focal point (or even two) that pulls your eye into the scene, be it abstract, impressionism or realism. Usually that focal point is created by contrasts – lightest lights against darkest darks, or small against large, shiny against dull. There may be some sort of visual pathway that entices your eye into the artwork such as directional shapes. The exception to this is a “pattern piece” where other factors predominate such as shape and repetition, which can often be found in non-representational abstract art.
This relates to the use of materials and good craftsmanship to effectively narrate the message the artist is trying to convey. This can include brushwork, use of color, composition and other choices the artist will make. Has the artist mastered the use of their chosen media? And keep in mind that serendipity can often bring delightful results for an artist. There is a difference between good art and just random blotches or splashes of paint on a surface. Whether painting with loose or controlled styles, both are valid approaches, and the viewer’s appreciation of this is more a matter of their personal taste than it is of the quality of the artwork.
To wrap up here, these concepts are generalized and very subjective. The reasons you love a particular piece of art aren’t dependent upon your knowledge of why, but we thought perhaps you would enjoy stretching or flexing your art appreciation muscles with a bit of information you may (or may not) find informative or interesting.
As creators of visual art, our gallery artists try to learn and practice these concepts in order to produce the best possible outcome with our efforts that will provide beauty and enjoyment for you in your space, be it home or office, and in your life.