Logo Melanie Big

I like to stand by and observe the effect of my paintings on the various people who wander into my little gallery workshop, or those who attend my shows in the galleries and other venues in which I present my work to the public. It is always interesting to see and hear their reactions. Sometimes people ask me what “style” I paint in. They frequently compare my work to impressionism. Often I hear an admirative statement about it looking like a photograph. This makes me laugh, because I know what the photograph looked like, and it isn’t even close!! But I reassure them that I take it as the compliment they intended. Some people come in and with humility say “I don’t know anything about painting, but I LIKE this”. It’s as if they must apologize for not liking paintings that don’t represent reality as they see it, as if somehow they have been told that isn’t “educated”…

I spent the better part of my life educating myself. I have always loved paintings, whether I can see them in museums or galleries, at friend’s houses, or in books and media, I am always eager to feast visually on more, and all kinds. Growing up, I read and studied about the lives of many painters, especially the ones whose styles attracted me. I learned a lot about the history of Art in the Western world view. I experimented with different mediums and learned as much as I could about them, keeping an updated copy of Artist’s Materials and Techniques as my bible. Most importantly I work. I adhere to the old adage about making your first 5000 mistakes so you can begin to correct them. If you aren’t DO-ing, how can you evolve? I believe that as an artist (just as any human!) we never stop growing. I hope to have a long healthy life which I can use to celebrate the growth of my abilities in the visual arts. It is the thing I have always planned to do with my “one wild and precious life”…

On the topic of “style” it seems to me these labels are made up and stuck on artists by other people seeking to put things in neat little boxes. However, if I had to say which “-ism” I feel most closely akin to it might be this one :

Magical realism in its modern sense first appeared in 1955, the German art critic Franz Roh first used the phrase in 1925, to refer to a painterly style also known as Neue Sachlichkeit (the New Objectivity). Magical realist art does not often include overtly fantastic or magical content, but rather looks at the mundane through a hyper-realistic and often mysterious lens. In visual art it brings extreme realism to the depiction of mundane subject matter, revealing an “interior” mystery, rather than imposing external, overtly magical features onto this everyday reality. It employs various techniques that endow all things with a deeper meaning and reveal mysteries, representing before our eyes–in an intuitive way –the interior figure of the exterior world.

Magical realism faithfully portrays the exterior of an object, and in doing so the spirit, or magic, of the object reveals itself. The aim is not to add magical elements to a realistic painting, but to pursue a radically faithful rendering of reality; the “magic” effect on the viewer comes from the intensity of that effort: Quoting the painter John Stuart Ingle : “I don’t want to make arbitrary changes in what I see to paint the picture, I want to paint what is given. The whole idea is to take something that’s given and explore that reality as intensely as I can.”

There are so many styles of painting, in fact with few exceptions painting is unique to each artist. I would love to paint like so many of the artists I admire. Sometimes I try to do a piece in the spirit of an artist whose work I love. Over the years I have noticed that paintings tend to paint themselves, and I have some control but not complete control. So I am learning to let painting work through me, in collaboration—and try to be ok with that ! Life is never boring down here on this little rock in the Pacific, dancing with my muse… I look forward to your visit!