How I decide what to paint...

Today is Tuesday (my day off from painting).  By the way, if you're a visitor to Asheville and roaming around the River Arts District, looking for open art studios, never fear. My studio is open and being watched by Ruth Vann, a dear friend of Joy's and mine. So as I was saying, today is my day off and I thought I would spend some time on the computer hunting for photos that inspire me (I am constantly on the look-out for a photo or an idea that would lead to a compelling oil painting).

But...what makes a "compelling" oil painting? Glad you asked, but that's a tough question to answer!  When you go to Google images for instance and type in "compelling landscape photos", you get some very nice photography. But I can literally spend an hour looking at hundreds and hundreds of beautiful photos and not one of them would make a really great oil painting. Why is that?

One sticking point that causes most photos to be disregarded is that I'm looking for a subject matter (for the most part) that is either generic or is specific to Western North Carolina. That is because I have found it difficult to sell artwork that is obviously a scene from somewhere else in the country. About three years ago, I came up with what I thought was a really great idea:  to paint the iconic scenes from around the whole country. My thought was that people come into my art studio from all over the country so...why just stick to local North Carolina landscape scenes? Well, that year I had a blast painting Mt. Rainier, Yosemite Valley, the plains of Nebraska, the coast of Maine and the bayous of Louisiana. I loved it. This country is huge and so incredibly scenic. Great idea, huh?

Well no. I still have a few of those paintings left. I learned something that year though. Most of my paintings I sell in my studio are to people visiting Asheville, and they're looking for something to take home to remind them of their time in Western North Carolina (not a lighthouse on the coast of Maine). So now, that's the first thing I look for: something specific to North Carolina mountains and woods, or something generic (mountains, trees, lakes, rivers etc. that could be anywhere).

But then the second thing I look for in a photo I use for inspiring a painting is whether or not it "draws you in". That is what I am looking for and I'm not really sure what does that. Lighting? Colors? Contrast? All the above? Something else? Basically, I want each painting to speak to the viewer : "come home". That's it. It's that simple. Come home. We strive and work and stress-out and play and vacation so that we can re-create Eden. We really do. I don't care what religion you are, I think that's what we're all doing. We long for paradise and try hard to create. I can't create paradise, but I can let the viewer look at it. And I like that. I believe that hints at hope. This very easily turns into a philosophical and spiritual conversation, and I won't do that here but...that really does explain what I'm trying to do with my artwork and what I'm inspired by.