It is amazing what a piece of art can do. Paintings are more then globs of pigment on canvas. They are windows into new worlds and ideas that lead our minds into new realms we never realized existed. A provocative subject can give us pause to think, a subject based in parody can spark a laugh, and for some of us, they can even provide healing powers. A young man who was in a hospital was able to cope with his disease by engaging in artistic projects. This happy story illustrates the powerful responses, both physical and emotional, a piece of art can garner.
What kind of response do you get when you look at a painting? Any response is better than nothing for an artist’s goal is to have their work remembered. A painting can convey emotion just from the colors used or the composition chosen. Earlier this year I tried to convey a feeling of self-reflection and even a little regret in the work “It’s Never too Late.” The point of the work was to ask the question “Is it ever too late to try what you never tried?” In the scene, the old man is sitting on a chair while holding a cello. He has a pensive and urgent expression as he loses himself in a sunset that is fading away outside. He is pondering whether he could still try to learn this difficult instrument at his older age. Surrounded by family photographs, we assume he has made good choices for himself and found happiness. The expression suggests however that he does have some regrets. What has he sacrificed to obtain his happiness? What has he missed out on?
To convey these feelings I used symbolism. The main theme here is the eternal force of time. The old man is a victim of time and the choices he is forced to make because of it. There are two plants surrounding him in this setting. One is full of life and touching the sunlight while the other is in shade and withering as it approaches its last days. Time has worked its power here and the old man is surrounded by it. The large clock on the wall hovers over the old man as a reminder that life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. The old man is in his own epicenter of action and consequence. While the family photographs are behind him and represent the choices made and his path chosen, he is looking ahead into a sun that is setting and realizing the life he has lived all of these years is also starting to set. He has limited time to resolve these remaining desires that he has put off in his old age. Will he try to learn this instrument like he always wanted to? Is it ever too late?
The next time you are stuck on a painting take a moment to determine why you have an interest in the work. Is it the subject, color, or something else? Artists appreciate knowing that their work is creating a response.