How does an artist guide the viewer through a painting? Too many distractions and you’ll lose the viewer. The picture will confuse them, and they will move on. Oops… missed that sale!
Sometimes you will want to have distractions to add interest to the painting. You need to think about what you are doing, though. Many paintings contain objects placed with little or no design. The artist ignores the viewer. Never forget for whom are you painting?
You’d better be painting for your viewer because he’s the one who will open his wallet and buy your painting.
Even if you aren’t planning to sell your work, it’s still a good idea to think how your art will affect the viewer. At the very least it is a sign of respect.
Even the Old Masters understood this concept. Raphael’s workshop produced Madonna and Child paintings like there was no tomorrow. They were favorite paintings in Renaissance Italy. They held not only religious significance but much more. Almost every household had a Madonna and Child in their bedroom. The image was a good omen meant to bless the family with children.
Raphael painted, perhaps, more Madonnas than any Renaissance painter.
One could spend hours marveling at the quality of each. Raphael died at thirty-seven making his accomplishments even more remarkable.
Besides his famous Madonnas, his workshop produced these paintings because they sold!
Like most of the art during the Renaissance, his paintings told stories and contained symbolic elements.
In the Madonna of the Goldfinch (on the right above), the bird represents the symbol of the human soul that flies away at death.
The red spot on the goldfinch is from a drop of blood from the thorn-crowned head of Christ. (Click the image for a larger view.) Legend has it that the bird came flying by while Christ was dying on the cross. It took a thorn, and a drop of blood touched its head. Raphael portrays that connection as well as the foreboding of the suffering and death of the Christ child.
Take a close look at those curls on the head of the child on the left – John the Baptist. Raphael copied many of Leonardo’s works. What do you want to bet those curls came from da Vinci?
Da Vinci’s angel is on the left and Raphael’s painting is on the right.
You’ll paint a lot, especially at first, for yourself. You never know, though, how your painting will affect another person.
The other day, the husband of one of our students dropped into our Washington store. His wife was working on “Moonglow.” one of the paintings in Master Class. “Moonglow” is a nighttime landscape painting. A harvest moon shines brightly reflecting off the surface of a mountain lake.
He looked at her painting and recalled a camping trip they took a couple of years ago. Making emotional connections like that makes your art even more meaningful.