William Kosman - Artiste Peintre

Friday, October 17, 2008

# 17: The Viewers Speak

"The Daily Menu"

"Neighborhood Scene"
Fellow Art Lovers:
Over one weekend, nearly 200 people visited my studio at 915 Spring Garden St., in Philadelphia - thanks to Philadelphia Open Studio Tours. A good number of those visitors expressed some sincerely held beliefs about how they view my work. And that's what I want to discuss with you today.
Every artist has to be careful about how he or she is influenced by people who look and comment about art works. On the one hand, yes, of course, we are influenced by what we hear people say, and that's very important to me. As a matter of fact, it's a true pleasure for me to hear what people think about my work - the ways they are affected, the kinds of thoughts and emotions my work prompts in them, the ideas that rush to them, and the places my works take them.
But on the other hand, we as artists cannot allow ourselves to be too influenced by our viewers' comments. In theory, we should know who we are, what we are trying to express, and any changes in our styles should be the result of reaching deeper and deeper into ourselves to express what is there, or what we hope is there. In short, we can't just play to the crowd.
At the same time, I haven't hidden from you the fact that I've felt a bit torn between two styles, the freedom of the palette knife and the precision of brushes.
Okay, so what did people say?
One camp told me that I should focus exclusively on working with brushes. These people said that the scenes of Philadelphia with people in them - like "The Daily Menu" above - are such a pleasure to view because they show such sensitivity and feeling for people, the scenes themselves reflect the kinds of situations people live, the colors are bright and engaging, and most important, you can actually draw conclusions about the people's emotions and characters from my paintings.
This is great to hear for several reasons. All artists seek acceptance in some way, and frankly I'm not short on ego. And also, I'm sure I've written before about the pleasure I feel when I am actually fully engaged in the act of painting. Just thinking about nothing else and squishing paint around on the canvas.
The other camp told me that I should focus on using the palette knife. They said they respected the skill and precision of the images, but more than that, they felt that the surface and texture of the paintings completed with palette knives were more active and interesting and contained more energy. In fact, one gentleman said that he loved to move back and forth in front of the paintings done with palette knives because the images actually seemed to change. He said that when you start up close and move slowly away, at a certain moment the separate pieces seemed to snap into place, the blocks joined, and the entire image became whole.
Boy! That's great to hear. This gentleman actually spent time studying not only the painting, but also his reactions to it. And frankly, I don't know if I ever looked at my paintings in that way.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to express to you how much I appreciate the time, the thought and the candor so many of you gave me.
Now, what do I do with this knowledge? There are no easy answers. And I don't know what will happen when I am actually in front of a canvas with brushes and palette knives in my hands. I think I've explained to you so many times that I am an emotional painter, and I often let happen what happens, depending on serendipity. But if I actually stand there with both brushes and palette knives, if I hold both tooks in my hands at the same time, who knows what will happen?
I will report back to you, and I will show you the result.
Please remember, if any of you want to visit my studio, you do not have to wait for Philadelphia Open Studio Tours. Just e-mail me, and we'll work it out.
As always, thanks for listening to me, and thanks for sharing your ideas, and thanks for your support.
William Kosman

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