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  • Jennifer Claveau

Choosing Your Subject

Sardines on Maro Beach

For me, choosing a subject to paint can be the most intimidating part of painting. I have come to realize that there is no one right way to do this and that choosing your subject is a highly personal experience. This is part of the artistic process and individual journey we are on as artists. Subjects, on their own, are a message. The way a subject is painted is a message. The colours used or lack of, are a message...and the reason you chose to paint your subject in the first place, sends a message.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider about how and what you communicate through your art. The most important part of this though, is the fact that you can't take choosing a subject lightly. At least, that is my belief and thought on the matter.

The reason I believe this is partly because of the medium I am using (watercolour) and the impressionism or realism I am trying to achieve.

If you ask yourself the question "Why?", you will be forced to dig deeper into your own personal reasons for pursuing the angle, the lighting, and composition for the subject you like. Knowing your reasons is part of the process.

The plate of sardines above is the subject from a trip I took to Spain. I remember this day like it was yesterday. I love the subject because I loved the photo this came from and I loved how these sardines were prepared and tasted. It kept popping up in my digital album and practically begged me to paint it. At first, I didn't think I could achieve the boldness required and I actually had to paint this twice to get the results I wanted.

It was a unique lighting situation, with dappled light from a sun shade on the sands of Maro Beach. It was a romantic time, I was there with my husband and friends. It was my first trip to Spain and it was inspiring. I wanted to see if I could capture the experience of that day, with the intense colours and light. I tried to bring my own unique perspective to this painting and based on my own instincts and the feedback I have been getting, I think it was a success.

How I chose this subject seems random to me. I actually think this subject chose me and I let it happen. I don't have a magic formula for forcing a subject, and so far, I am not trying to develop one.

I continue to take classes and often the subjects are given to us. This is good practice, but I'm continually looking for my next project and I want it to have a deeper meaning than the face value of an image. As a curious watercolour artist, that is what I crave...meaningful messages. I realize that, for me, it is important that I have a good story to go with my painting. The story doesn't have to be told or understood by the audience, but it is important to me. The story for me can be personal or it can be a personal story of someone else, but I want it to be real.

If the subjects I choose communicate something, it would be "based on a true life story".

What subjects are you interested in painting and why? I would love to hear your comments on this discussion.