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Conversation Piece – by Robert Genn

Conversation Piece
by Robert Genn

Yesterday, Anne Swannell of Victoria, B. C., wrote, "A couple of years ago one of my paintings sold in a group show and also won the Viewer's Choice Award. The other day, I printed a copy of it to be made into a card, when I noticed it had an error. It's a painting of people walking in the rain, with reflections of them and their umbrellas. But one of the reflections is missing an umbrella! Would you call up the buyer and offer to paint a blurry upside-down umbrella in, or would you consider that mistake part of the picture's mystique and leave well enough alone?"

Thanks, Anne. There are times when you need to repair your sold paintings, but this is not one of them. You have produced what is known as a "conversation piece," that is, something the owners and their friends can talk about long after it stops raining in B.C. My guess is your customer will want it left just the way it is. FYI, we've put the painting at the top of the current clicback.

Whether by intent, intuition or error, artists do well to take liberties in their work.

Art has the potential for another kind of truth--the truth of illusion, distortion, anomaly, enigma, exaggeration, paucity, understatement, embellishment and error. If everything in a picture were exactly as in nature, there would be little to engage anyone, much less give them something to talk about. Art fascinates for reasons the artist and the viewer cannot always define. We sit in front of our work and say, "There's something funny about this, but I don't know what it is."

Just the thing you can't figure out may just be the basis of its charm. Further, with the exception of a short hint in the title, your work is mute. Here are a few ideas to encourage your viewers to speak up on its behalf:

A personal connection to either you or the owner.
An intriguing style that has them wondering.
An incongruity that begs the question, "What's this?"

Artists are supposed to be the ones with imagination. A good part of our job description is to get regular people to use theirs.

Best regards,


PS: "Those things which are most real are the illusions I create in my paintings." (Eugene Delacroix)

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his bi-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, please visit his weblog at www.painterspost.com

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