It’s interesting to look at artwork made by other people. It’s inspiring to see how well other people create. But not every artwork is meant to convey technical skill. So what am I looking for when I look at work that isn’t photo-realistic?
One of the first things I look at is the title. It can sometimes give a clue on what the artist was thinking. How does it relate to the artwork? Does it seem like there’s a connection?
Some artwork is telling a story. Are there characters that might be doing something interesting? Does it look like something is happening? What could the characters be thinking about?
Other artwork is meant to convey feeling. How do I feel as I look at the work? Do the colors or shapes suggest ideas or emotions? How are they placed withing space? How does that make me feel?
Art can make a statement. Does it seem to relate to a relationship or current event? Is the content strange, off-putting or controversial? What do I think the artist is trying to say?
Of course, I don’t always have any of this in mind when I look at a piece of artwork. Sometimes the artist will write a thorough explanation and post it in a guide book or right next to the work. Then I can choose whether to factor their wishes into what I think of the piece.
And I can choose to think whatever I want. My opinion of the artwork doesn’t have to be based on the artist’s intent. Once I view it, I am participating in determining the meaning for myself.
Perhaps for me the meaning of a particular painting is that cats are scary. Or that eating in bed leaves crumbs and is a bad idea. Or I could decide that the red painting is far too angry and I’m not going to look at it much at all.
I could decide that modern art is boring, and no one can tell me that I’m wrong. They can say that not everyone thinks that, and that can be true too. It’s part of the fun of looking at art.
When art is hidden away with no one to look at it, it has a lot less meaning than art that other people can look at. If art has lots of different meanings, that just means that it’s been looked at and thought about often. So, don’t be afraid to have your own opinion about what you look at.
I think that the more meaning you find, the more interesting a painting is. But to find meaning, you have to spend time with the painting and give it more than just a glance. That’s when looking at artwork made by other people becomes interesting and inspiring.
What is your favorite artwork? What kind of art do you like? Why? What do you look for when you look at art?