Can You Smell Your Paintings?

“I must see new things and investigate them. I want to taste dark water and see crackling trees and wild winds.” – Egon Schiele

Edith Schiele – by Egon Schiele.

Introduced to Schiele more deeply when I visited Vienna many years ago, from my Austrian sister-in-law. She gave me a book of his works for Christmas and I fell into it like a warm hot tub.

I was intrigued by the use of line and emotion in his work. I find his paintings so visceral and raw. I can see why Schiele loved his wife, and what he found so engaging about her by what he put down on the page. I can feel all of that complex relationship and times just from this one painting.

The quote in particular resonates for me. I’m always needing to see and experience new things (perhaps to a fault). I want to learn and dig deep, to discover the essence of something. If I can pass along anything to you, I hope it’s this deep investigation and curiosity about your subject matter. That ‘deep seeing’….but as Schiele states here, it’s not just the eyes that are part of the sensory experience of being an artist…(and you are ALL artists!) Please declare that, whether it’s your passion about stick-men, or a desire to have a meditative, relaxing relationship with your pencils and sketchpads…use every single sense that you have. Taste that dark water….see crackling trees and wild winds. Touch the soul of your models face. Hear the stone on the side of a mountain with your pencil.

I have always said that I know a painting/drawing or sculpture is done…WHEN I CAN SMELL IT.

Don’t laugh. I feel that if I have done my job, I’ve put everything into it that I can as a human being – used all my senses to the fullest to describe how I feel and what I see in my subject.

Joe Creek ©2013 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen on board.

This little 6″x8″ plein air piece represents about an hour that I spent at Joe Creek, near Robert’s Creek BC on the Sunshine Coast. Done about seven years ago, I can look at it now and feel the cool coastal mist, hear my family exploring the creek around me, the little brook bubbling downwards to the sea and all of that love and emotion and beauty that I felt sitting there on my friend Kendra’s property, soaking it all into my soul. This is what I love so much about painting and drawing, is that recall of emotion and sensory experience. I feel that as artists, if we are doing our job well, we can pass that feeling along to someone else and have them feel the same thing, or at least apply their own life experience to it. What a mode of deep communication from human to human. This is what I love about being an artist.

Be the painting.

If you want to learn to draw with me, talk and discuss this, click here to join the ongoing class and discussions.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jackie Minnaar

    Never thought of it this way. But I immediately recognised what you’re talking about.

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