Painting a Pig


All the credit for this post goes to my friend Bobbi!

In the watercolor instruction book “How to Make a Painting” by Irving Shapiro (1985), a respected water-colorist of the 1950’s-90’s, the author discusses his editing decisions to enhance the composition of his subject on a page titled “Translating the Poetry of Patterns.”

The topic reminded him of an incident during his first one-man exhibit.  “One of my paintings showed a railroad siding, with the tracks sweeping toward the horizon, punctuated by railroad cars of various types.  At the opening of the exhibit, I noticed an elderly man who stared at this particular painting for long periods of time.  He’d move on to the others, but he kept coming back.  Finally, he came up to me and declared, ‘Young man, that painting is all wrong!  I’m a retired railroad man and…….’ whereupon he proceded to admonish me for all the things that were ‘wrong’.  What he wanted to see of course, were the very real ‘things’ his expertise had conditioned him to see.  Probably he would have been more gratified to see a photograph hanging there.”

Shapiro ends by saying ” In my paintings now, as well as then, what I aim to capture is the spirit of the subject as I see it.  It’s an interpretive statement in which I create–through drawing, composition, value structure, and color qualities–the personality of the subject as I react to it.  I once had a painting teacher who repeatedly instructed, ‘Study the pig, but paint the squeal’.”

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