I will never forget the moment I saw the original of Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as a young adult. Overwhelmed, I felt its impact in the center of my chest, and tears came to my eyes. I had admired the expressionism in Van Gogh’s works since I was a teen, staring at my book of print reproductions of his paintings for years prior to that visit to the museum.
Why then, did the original have such an effect on me? I can only say that for me, the original has the spirit of the artist, his time and his vision. It was as if I was, in a way, actually meeting Vincent Van Gogh. Probably also some of it also was due to the fact that the painting had become iconic to me. But there was the visceral reality of the original painting, its physical presence, seeing the actual paint, the colors mixed by the artist, the brushstrokes, the canvas sometimes showing through the impasto, indicating the haste or the care taken, all of the things one sees when looking at an original painting, providing a glimpse into the artist’s experience. “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, from France. [Excerpt from the Museum of Modern Art’s webpage, http://www.moma.org/collection/works/79802.]
Isn’t that really what a painting is, a representation of what the artist “saw”, whether in actuality or in his or her mind? That is my intention in sharing my art, to share my vision, to share my experience of my environment, my own appreciation for what I see and how it all fits together, the light in the composition, and the way the elements work together – the lines, forms, colors, and textures. I share my thrill.
While it is true that printing processes are always improving, an original painting is so much more impactful than a print. People see differently than a camera. And in the technical process of reproducing the image of a painting, colors separate and forms change, with the mechanical image sometimes showing the paint layer underneath instead of the one on the surface. My own print-maker brings me multiple proofs, tweaking the cast, correcting a color here and there, and even still, sometimes I feel compelled to go back in with a brush to tighten up some of the details, or I have to make the decision to live with color separation in areas where there was a perfect blend in the original painting. My own photos miss values by as much as 2 steps on a 10-step scale, and fail miserably when it comes to capturing certain colors, most especially the pinks of sunset. The original painting has the energy, the color mixes, the form as the artist intended, while in the end, a reproduction is what we end up settling for.
The solution? Buy original art! Certainly buying prints is better than not buying art at all. I can supply giclée prints from $50 to $650, depending on whether you want a good paper print or if you want a larger-than-original gallery-wrapped canvas. But a print is still a print. There are reasons to buy print reproductions, such as when something is whimsical or if your taste changes frequently. But it is absurd to buy a house for several hundred thousand dollars, or several million, and then to decorate it with cheap prints. Purchasing original art is a way of honoring yourself. You deserve original art, art that you pick out, art that transports you. Original art has an energy far exceeding that of a print.
I made a decision some time ago to hang nothing but original artwork in my own home. It enhances the energy in my home by tenfold, worth every penny. Every time I enter a room, I actually look at the art on my walls, and I have the same feelings that prompted me to buy it in the first place. Each piece commands attention and contributes to the energy in my home. This is in such contrast to the print calendars I have hanging here and there, the images certainly beautiful, chosen for their theme, but purchased as a necessity and easily ignored. Original works of art contribute far more than prints, in much the same way that real wood carries a stronger energy than veneer or faux finishes.
You and I are sensitive to energy. We can meet a person and know in our gut, instantly, whether we have “good chemistry”. The same is true of inanimate objects, the stuff we surround ourselves with. It’s the reason we want to escape from our plastic-and-concrete workplaces to visit the scenic wonderland of nature. Our home is our haven, and we should surround ourselves with energies that enhance our sense of well-being and our vitality. We honor ourselves by purchasing original art.
Plein air painting is risky — sometimes the light changes so fast you feel like you are chasing it. But I struck gold with the scene I chose when I joined the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters on Wednesday for our weekly outing this week. We painted at Lincoln Park in Valparaiso, Florida. It had been raining for several days over the previous week and weekend — my garbage can had 18″ of rain in it (warranting yet another note to my garbage man to always turn it over after emptying!). The grassy earth was like a wet sponge, sinking underfoot, each step flooding my painting Crocs. I set up my easel beside the purple splash of a wild iris blooming near the brook at the edge of the park. I was exhilarated by the play of light and shadow in the warmth of the spring day.