Drowning in Metaphor?

Preliminary sketch for my next painting, Anna in the Waves.

“A work of art should be like a well-planned crime.” –Charles Baudelaire

In last week’s blog was an image of an oil sketch for my next painting. This week I have a pencil study for it. I’m hoping this painting will be like a well-planned crime.

I’ll be painting the ocean and my daughter Anna, yet the painting won’t be about either of them.

It will be the first in a series of paintings using metaphor for various emotions  in regard to ….life.  It’s about that repeating fear/joy continuum that is life for most of us. Only those who are truly enlightened seem to have no use for fear. This painting, however will be about joy and power and feeling invincible. I like the idea of using the ocean as a metaphor for life because most of us are ambivalent  in regards to the beautiful, powerful, unpredictable ocean just as it seems to me that we are (I am)  ambivalent about life; overwhelming, hard, wonderful, terrifying, amazing.

Metaphor is a handy way to communicate, though I wonder when an artist uses images as metaphor how often the viewer “get’s it”?  People bring to a painting what they know and believe and so a painting will speak to each person differently. Metaphor has the potential to be trite to some, but possibly prophetic to others.


Painting by Vladimir Kush 

Then again, you can not depict a 3 dimensional world 2 dimensionally without using metaphor. Representational paintings are always metaphors! Right? An artist’s brushstrokes are metaphors for ….tree, apple…whatever they are depicting.

Then there is what Henry Ward Beecher said : “Every artist dips his brush in his soul and paints his own nature into his pictures.” A metaphor about a metaphor.

Enough with the metaphors!

As Jim Butcher said “Life is a journey, Time is a river. The door is ajar”. (LOL!)


Painters are Gambling


sketch for my next painting


Painters are compulsive gamblers.

In the studio I mean.

Gambling is defined by the willingness to risk something you value for the hope of gaining something of greater value.

We know that artists traditionally gamble with their financial security. Many also gamble with their health by using toxic materials. Why do they risk security and health? I think they are addicted to the possibility that the next painting will be the big jackpot. The painting that says it all, that wins the big awards and goes down in the chronicles of great art. Or, if they are of a different temperament, the painting that is simply closer to their intent or vision than the one preceding it.


The Carrot

As for myself, the average compulsive  painter, there is just enough occasional improvement  to entice me to continue. OK, maybe this is not the drug that addicts all artists to their craft. Some get a high from producing and really love the process. The basic need to create is in everyone to a greater or lesser extent.  But personally I am also dragged along with the notion that someday I might be able to produce the sort of paintings that speaks deeply to your humanity, to your essence, to your spirit and that these paintings would be taken seriously by many, including  the curator of a  museum, maybe even a great museum. There, I said it! Silly me. Silly, since most all of my work is very commercial.  Oh well, big goals are good goals. The point I had intended to make is that dissatisfaction with current work is nearly a constant for myself and many artists.

I heard Robert Mankoff, cartoon editor of the New Yorker Magazine, speak in an interview on NPR the other day. He said, “Everyone has an idea for a cartoon that they think is great, only real cartoonists are unhappy with what they have.”

Of course there are lots of happy artists out there pleased with their great works. You are lucky if you are one of them! But dissatisfaction is the fuel that feeds many artists who have a commitment to that elusive je ne sais quoi that is  art.

As Ken Danby said, “Whenever I’m asked to identify my best work, or my favorite, my answer has always been the same – ‘My next one!'”






Test your art knowledge!


Guess which art movement this painting belongs in!

Here’s a little quiz of art terms, most of which I pulled from a Huffpost Arts and Culture article. See if you are an art aficionado!

1 Postmodernism is…

A. Art that happened after Picasso died

B. Art that happened after Modernism

C. Abstract painting that looks like  posts if you tilt your head just so

D. A rejection of modernisum


2 Art Deco is…

A. Any old ornamental art

B. A portrait of Anderson Luís de Souza

C. Design style of the 1920′ and 30’s

D.. Cubist Artworks


3 Monochromatic means…

A. Black, white and grey

B. Of similar colors

C. Weak color

D. One color modified by black and/or  white


4 Experssionism is…

A. Paint that’s thrown on the canvas

B. Angry paintings

C. Paintings of happy, sad or angry people

D. Dipictions of inner emotions


5  Readymade means….

A. Art that is already framed

B. Art manufactured factory style (I’ve worked in one of these factories!)

C. Objects initially made with no intent to be considered art but placed in an art envoirnemnt by an artist with the intent of calling it art.

D. Paint by numbers


6 Futurism is….

A. Art that hasn’t happened yet

B. 20th Centery Art that celebrates speed and what was new at the time

C. Art that foretells the future

D. Paintings of Robots


7 Contemporary means…

A. Art from living artists

B. Art depicting current themes

C.  Modern Art

D. Abstract Art


8 Tone is…

A. The color of an area

B. A “Shade” color

C. A beautiful body

D. A color with both black and white added


9 Avant-garde means…

A. An art movement from the early 1900’s

B. The front gate guards at Buckingham Palace

C. A new kind of drink

D. Any new or experimental concept


10 Zombie Formilisum is….

A. Zombies at a Prom

B. The way Zombies don’t behave

C. An art movement devoted to the Zombie culture

D. Contemporary Formilisum


11 Formilisum means….

A. Being polite

B.Fancy clothes

C. A movement around the 1950 professing “Art for Art’s Sake”

D. Abstract forms



 OK that’s enough!

How did you do?   1-D, 2- C , 3 – D, 4 – D, 5 – C, 6 – B, 7 – A, 8 – D, 9 – D, 10 – D, 11 – C