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  • Marta Stephens

A Second Pair of Eyes

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

I had an opportunity to display several paintings on 8/8/2021 with the Muncie Artist Guild (MAG). I've been a member of this wonderful group of local artists since the Fall of 2018. Every August, the Guild hosts an annual MAG Art Show. Since joining, I’ve been fortunate and honored that each year some of my paintings have placed in a competition involving 20 or more artist and close to 90 entries.


Anticipating a judge's decision can be unsettling, but I find that it's no different than waiting to read a review of one of my novels. It's a matter of trusting in your ability, but more importantly, understanding that opinions are subjective. Still, if heeded, the hard lessons often come from the negative critiques or reviews and that's how we grow as artists.

I had an interesting conversation with this year's judge. My "Lilli's Violet" received first place in the acrylic category. I had two other paintings in that category as well, "Iris Patch" and "Hydrangea Still Life" that did not place. After the awards were given out, the judge walked around the gallery and was kind enough to comment on all the works in addition to the winning entries. Naturally, I was interested to know his thoughts about the two paintings that didn’t place in the competition, but for some reason he skipped over them. I later had a chance to talk with him and am glad I did.


I'm mostly a self-taught artist. My style has changed several times over the years, but I have been studying the classic impressionist styles for some time. It's one thing to see and appreciate it, it's another to achieve it. When I finished painting "Lilli's Violet" I felt that I had finally started to get it.


Our judge spoke with me for a while, and although he liked my other paintings, he offered a wealth of constructive criticisms on each of them. His main observation was that the lines between the foreground and background were too defined. In other words, I was handing the viewer a subject matter that they didn't have to decipher.


As I listened to his explanations and the comparisons he made of the three paintings something clicked. Whether I write or paint, I'm often too close to the work which is why it's so critical to have another pair of eyes. By the time I returned home, his words had put me in a very reflective mood. Of course, it made perfect sense. After all, isn't that what impressionism is all about? Depicting a visual impression in terms of the shifting effect of light and color.


The writer in me immediately made parallels between impressionism and a key writing rule, "show, don't tell."


Bingo!


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