When I started painting seriously again several years ago, I wondered how long my enthusiasm would last. I have always been a creative person and thus dabbled in all sorts of art forms. I gained much pleasure from seeing my graphic designs printed on silk or seeing my clay necklaces lined up on display. I wasn’t sure if I had anything significant to add to the genre of painting. There are so many painters in the world. Wouldn’t I just be one more, lost in the din? However, I soon found that the high I felt after completing a painting resonated long after the paint had dried and pushed me on to start another.
The Finnish National Gallery had an exhibit a couple years ago called, “Art Ecstasy,” and explored the reasons behind why some people get jittery around art. Artists were quoted giving examples of when they had felt short of breath in front of art that inspired them. I can attest to this. There is a certain type of art that really pushes my buttons. I can be nonchalantly making my way through a museum, my mind wandering to my afternoon coffee fix, when a piece of artwork strikes a chord. I then feel a physical rush and the thumping of my heart. My eyes eagerly take in the colors and textures and search the room hoping there are more in the same vein.
What is it about this style of painting that gets me going? I definitely feel a quickening when in the presence of greatness, whether it be the great masters or an unknown local artist with exceptional technique. However, there is a certain style that is like visual speed to me. It is often the pre-impressionist period in the late 19th century. Most consistently, the sweeping whites and dashes of poppy orange in John Singer Sargent paintings inspire me. This style can also be seen in numerous Russian landscape painters like Isaac Levitan. I love the snowy white scenes with wispy birch trees, wooden sleighs and bright sunshine. I also recall feeling all abuzz in the Krakow, Poland museum. I didn’t recognize any of the artists but so many had the quality I love. In Nancy, France, I was treated to the large canvases of Emile Friant. I love the natural realism of his work and how the intense detail of the subject stands against swift and blurred background images. So much of the art in Sweden’s National Museum was breathtaking. Anders Zorn is a painter many artists list as inspiration. His painting, “Midsummer Dance,” is a favorite. Hanna Paul’s “Breakfast Time” has such wonderful light and selective detail.
There are so many canvases that I could list. I have been fortunate to have seen some of the world’s best with my own eyes and this has led to my own eagerness to recreate the beauty of life in paint. Like a runner’s high, I want to push the limits of my ability again and again and then sit back and enjoy the warmth of satisfied accomplishment.
I’d love to hear which painters or paintings get your heart racing.