Category Archives: Painting

The Mood Factor


Dunseverick – watercolour by Ken Riddles 

One of the aspects of art appreciation that is overlooked, is the ‘mood’ aspect.

What ? – Moody landscapes do you mean? 

No. I’m referring to the emotional state of artist and viewers alike.

It is difficult nay, perhaps for some folks, we could say, almost impossible to trace the origins or cause of mood swings.

We enthusiastically buy a piece of art. “Just love it!” Is the exclaimed conclusion when the money has been paid and it hangs on the living room wall.

But a year later they have a bad day and go ‘off-it’ completely, and set about to find a way of ridding themselves of the piece.

What do you mean that never happens? 


I remember sadly, that a friend of mine bought a painting I created,  entitled (I think?) ‘Couple’. It was a semi-abstract of two figures hand in hand.

She bought it for her fiancee, as an engagement present, owned by both as they entered marriage.

Unfortunately she had been duped and the partner wasn’t what he presented himself to be and the marriage ended.

She could no longer appreciate the painting and gave it away. A rather extreme example of how our subjective experiences can turn our emotional appreciation away from a formerly appreciated object.

I’m only too willing to concede also, however, that some pieces of art stay in favour throughout the life of the person who possesses it/them. Their daily experiences – good or bad – high or low – do not affect their intellectual and emotional attachment to the work.

I guess that is the ideal scenario, I’m just not convinced it is always the case.

Everyone likes a change. That’s why we RE-decorate our rooms.

As a painter I have moments of joy over what I have produced but I must confess it is sometimes short lived.

Fortunately there are works I do not want to part with. But not many.

As Christians we are not meant to live by our ‘moods’, as in –  only setting ourselves to please God, when we ‘feel’ like it. But to suggest we are not all subjectively motivated some of the time, would be unrealistic.

However, if The Lord Jesus had acted only on ‘nice or good feelings’, He would never have gone to the cross.

That’s where the will of God ‘kicks in’ for the Christian. Doing things because they are right, not because we feel right.

I certainly do not claim mastery in this sphere – only that The Master (Jesus), provides the help I need.

However in these considerations, and as part of this discussion is about art, we must also allow for the fluctuation of ambiguous artistic feeling. 

When an artist places his next mark on the paper, guided by an inner knowing and decision making mechanism, this can be referred to as ‘intuition’.

Put simply – an example would be – illustrated by the utterance: ‘I feel it needs something red down here…’

What do you mean ‘I feel it needs…?’

Explain that one…

There is no doubt we are all subject to whimsical feelings when it comes to taste. We get tired of always looking at or listening to the same thing. It is just part of human nature.

So I realise when it comes to my own art that those who have purchased or been gifted with my paintings may get tired of them.

The artist shouldn’t get too offended by this.

One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life is self-control.

Therefore that effects all our decision making. 

In that – we are to know ourselves, and ‘collate’ our thoughts in the Presence of God.

This leads to God’s Peace being arbitrator between what is acceptable and unacceptable (Colossians 3/15).

No Christian gets this correct all of the time, but when we don’t – we run back to God for His understanding forgiveness – He understands that we are sheep that too easily go astray.

So by all means enjoy being a human being – allowed to have likes and dislikes, our own ‘taste’ buds – our individual emotional responses to the sight of the eyes.

But art dealer ‘Joe Bloggs’ having an off-day (or mood swing) and as a result rejecting your art – should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Self-control wins the day as something to aspire to. An emotional roller-coaster life, and – the car gets so out of control it heads for a crash.

Galatians 5/

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Sparse or crowded?


Well aware that this is an over-simplistic indulgence. It is possible to fit an artist/painter into one of two categories:

The two categories are –

The minimal

And the crowded.

Regardless of their manifesto or school of thought. Regardless of their place on the scale from Photo-realism to abstraction.

Artist’s images are full to capacity and overflowing, or sparse, usually clean and minimal in content.

Have I traced this tendency to be true? Some artists will add and add and add to the image birthed by their brush. Others will study and study and study (studiously consider I mean), before placing any marks at all.

Some must invent. Some must record. The inventors must keep moving the brush and responding to what they have already produced – i.e. the marks they have already made.

The recorders must try each time they start a piece of work – to render it more accurately, ‘realistically’, naturalistically, and so on, – than last time.

Whatever (as they say) floats your boat.

It might be right to say that the ‘man in the street’ normally favours something he doesn’t have to think about – something that is plain to be seen – something that ‘reproduces’ reality.

But of course a painting or photograph can’t reproduce reality. It only imitates it. Three dimensionality (the actual world), will never become two dimensional, (the world of the flat surface).

This is a well worn debate.

The ‘non arty’ person (whatever that means?) –  favours the skill demonstrated in the imitational reproducing of reality – this person favours the recorder-type artist. Whilst usually dismissing the imaginative one – usually with the words ‘I don’t understand this…’

But of course no one can give the exact ‘numbers’ – the percentage preferences of taste in art appreciation, present in the public’s eye.

As there may well be as many folks who love imaginative non-figurative art now, as there are – those who favour the figurative.

Like what you like – be yourself

The sausage tester (‘ancient’ – Photoshop 4) – by KR

Two approaches


Some artists lean toward precision – each painting must improve on the last one, in demonstrating all the skills that go with proper rendition of a natural subject. Demonstrating a pre-occupation with technique.

A Photo-realist usually reveals his personality – to be one of a methodical and patient ‘reproducer’, with a perfectionist streak.

Other artists prefer the intuitive approach – or at least that is how it is usually described. Where the painting is allowed to emerge from his brushstrokes with no adherence to exact observation in reality – hopefully what emerges is something new, something fresh, something not seen before. Originality.

The danger for the ‘realist’ painter, can be lack of originality. The danger for the intuitive painter – lack of skill, or better put – the lack of the use of skill.

I tend toward the intuitive camp.

Here are two paintings to demonstrate what I mean:

Art is…

Abstract in Orange by Ken Riddles

Art is…

Art is an example of something that has a ‘universe’ of appreciators, sellers, and practitioners with points-of-view, that scramble words and theories to give us an open-ended result.

Art is what it is. Art is full of diverse schools of thought and opinion. Art is craft perfection to some – intuitive expression to others.

One school seems to contradict the other. When really they are just different aspects of this activity we call art.

Pseudo-intellectualism versus non-explanation and letting the work speak for itself. Once we ‘verbalise’ we annul or diminish the visual expression, some conclude.

Painting is dead, but gets resuscitated perpetually. 

Digital art has pushed us beyond even photography which was revolutionary when it first appeared – even though projection devises, Mr. Hockney has proven, were used by the legends that dwelt in the upper echelons of art mastery, before photography.

By using these devices are they any less the Masters they were, it could be asked?

In painting, some still hold to the Master and apprentice tradition, where, like the daily practice rituals of the great pianists, daily sketching to per-fect – perspective and placement of features, is still held as the raison d’etre of making art.

Some still hold that – reproductive mastery – of the ‘material’ person sitting for their portrait to be painted, requiring the perfect skill co-ordination of brain, eye, and hand is the necessary acquisition, before one can be called an artist.

Those who either don’t want to use their time to perfect the traditional exercises of the old drawing school approach, dare to find it boring, or believe we have advanced so much through the computerisation of all endeavours – consider it somewhat irrelevant today.

Originality is often defined well, or ill-defined. But basically man in art – is always looking for another way to display or present a different visual experience, infused with skill or otherwise.

There is a case to be made for ‘otherwise’.

In short art cannot be made to fit one particular mould, either in theory or in practice, as no such mould exists. 

Once art fits a ‘one mould only’ academic approach, it becomes totally limited, and art cries out to be free again.

Some wrongly equate art’s freedom with the annihilation of morality – which is another subject.

As we look at the so called masters, we simply learn a different approach and outlook, that came to the fore at a particular time in art’s history, and earned them their fame.

So art is ‘take your pick’, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, and art will always be that way.

Just make your mark – and, like the famous chair in Frasier that his father would not let go – at least you like it!