Sunday, August 30, 2009

Original Concepts

Early Friday evening: 

"So what visual image would you pick to represent love?," he asked.

"I was thinking of a mother and child," she said.

"That's a cop-out," he quickly answered.

Later that same evening:

"What do you think of that portrait of the young African-American man flipping us the bird?," she asked me.

"Well, I think the artist is trying to comment on the attitudes of youth in America today," I answered, trying to be diplomatic.

"I think it's offensive," she said with total candor.

"Yes, it's supposed to be, but I also think it's a bit cliched," I answered back.

I share these two conversations from my Friday evening because they both touch on an interesting topic: originality. I suspect that most of us try very hard to be original in expressing the values and ideas we hold dear. Yet, more often than not, we fall short of the goal, reaching instead for images that are familiar, expected, cliched, or sentimental. On the other hand, every new work is the artist's own spin.

So how important is originality? Is an image that's not original still valid as a work of art? How do we avoid becoming cliched or sentimental? Is there a way to cultivate a unique vision? Your thoughts? I'd like to start a conversation about this because I'm struggling with this very thing.


  1. Interesting topic, Jennifer...

    It's like paintings with pretty women holding umbrellas..... I think so many of them are really attractive.... but are they "cliche'd"???

    Does it matter... ??? Does it mean I shouldn't paint one because so many other people have??


  2. Scenes by past great artists can be inspiring to develop one's own modern version. For example, there is a painting of an old woman with a rosary by Cezanne which I used as a basis for a portrait of my mother praying the rosary, which she did every single day and usually in one particular rocking chair.

  3. Any subject is valid if it's painted skillfully and beautifully. There's a variety of tastes out there to please and a variety of artwork to meet those aesthetic desires.