Tuesday, April 09, 2013

POLL: What is the most difficult subject to paint?

We all have our favourite subject when it comes to making art - but which subjects do you find most difficult to paint?

There are views expressed from time to time about:
There are also cultures and countries where certain subject matter is very much favoured and/or where other subject matter is forbidden.

However we don't often hear about what people find difficult to paint and/or why they avoid certain subjects when creating art

Then there's the whole question of whether all artwork is a challenge and therefore difficult to paint!  Plus there's a whole raft of specifics such as painting 'atmosphere' or 'reflections' which some artists find difficult or too much of a challenge which I'm going to leave for another day.

One of my reasons for asking is I have a theory relating to subject matter - which I can't tell you about until we get to the results stage.  You can try guessing what it is if you like!

What is the most difficult subject to paint?


Your options for subject matter are:
  • anything and everything
  • abstract (no recognisable subject)
  • metaphorical / symbolic
  • narrative - story is main focus
  • landscape / cityscape 
  • still life
  • botanical / floral
  • animals / wildlife
  • people - portraits
  • people - groups of figures
The poll ignores media, size and stylistic approach.

The Making A Mark Poll for April is in the right hand column.  It runs until the early morning of the last day of April and will hopefully be reported the same day.

Do please comment on:
  • the reasons why you avoid painting certain subjects.
  • your views about why subject matter has changed over the years and what some of the reasons for this might be.
Here's what I would dearly love to be able to draw - but due to problems with what my eyes can cope with/see I'm totally unable to do so at the moment - until my eyes are fixed.  Roll on June!

a favourite subject - which is too difficult to contemplate
until I have new eyes!

12 comments:

David J. Teter said...

I selected People-Portraits and I'll be surprised if it is not the top answer. In fact I'll bet the (hierarchy) results will be very similar to your "Whats your favorite subject matter?" poll.
That one was before I discovered this blog.

Although the categories in the two polls differ slightly they are close enough to yield similar results.
Difficult is the key word here.
The top three favorites on that one I would say are the most difficult too.
They are for me.

Anatomy and perspective!

This would be my order of top 3 and I'll bet the top 3 in general:
1. People-portraits, People-groups of figures
2. animals/wildlife
3. landscape/cityscape

All three have one thing in common.
Apart from stylistic distortion, schools/movements of art or taking artistic liberties you can't really fake these three.
Everyone, artist or not, knows when something is a little (or a lot) off or not quite right. Mis-drawn features or limbs (people or animals), perspective not right etc.

Plus, figures/portraits especially, are usually subject to (needing) emotional content more so than other subjects. So that is a challenge in itself as I'm sure any portrait will tell you. We are emotional beings.

I can have a tree branch slightly mis-drawn, or a flower, a jelly sandwich... but a mis-drawn eye, a leg too short, windows that don't follow the rest of the perspective and it stands out like a sore thumb.

Some of this IS true as well with other categories
too I know, but this is about hierarchy.

I tend to avoid portraits since I am rarely happy with the results, especially people I know well.

I'm not sure what exactly you meant by "your views about why subject matter has changed over the years and what some of the reasons for this might be." Katherine.

Do you mean each of us personally or in art in general?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I meant "art in general"

However, I also think most people find that their subject matter progresses over time.

Cate K said...

I'm not sure what I avoid, other than very tedious subject matter. Until I saw it in the poll, I honestly have never considered trying to present a narrative in a painting. Yet, in the "old days" it was done all the time. I do not do well with "fleeting" images and prefer to depict what is in front of me. I'm thinking that news video and photography does a good job of capturing the narrative pictures these days, so artists focus on something else.

jane said...

What I find most difficult is not really on your list - and that is imaginative works. If I want to do something I have imagined, I would need to get reference material and put it all together (rather like is advised in James Gurney's books).

Similarly, some light effects like dusk etc - because they are so hard to create the references for!

A scene like your photo would be fine - the main problem for me would be boredom - would have to do it a little bit at a time, with all the possible changes in viewpoint etc that would lead to . . .

jane said...

p.s. suspect narrative has fallen out of favour as we have cinema/TV these days for that kind of thing. Few rich people are paying visual artists for propaganda . . .

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Oh - I should have included Imaginative! Shucks!

Vivienne said...

Not really any of the above .. but for me it's hands. Maybe because I angst over them so much I tend to get them wrong mostly.

theartistsday said...

I think the depiction of machinery is pretty difficult, and because of photography not often seen. There was a joy in a beautifully executed mechanical drawing colour lovingly added for definition. CAD has changed all that. Does this count as painting? it does show how technology has changed the way we see things.

theartistsday said...

I think the depiction of machinery is pretty difficult, and because of photography not often seen. There was a joy in a beautifully executed mechanical drawing colour lovingly added for definition. CAD has changed all that. Does this count as painting? it does show how technology has changed the way we see things.

Karen Robinson said...

I have ticked 'anything and everything' because that is the nearest category for "it depends..." which is what I wanted to vote for!! Difficulty, for me, is usually caused by colour. For example, dogs are my specialty and I love to paint them, but brindle-coated dogs are difficult to get right, as are traditional coloured German Shepherds, because of the risk of my umbers and ochres and violet-blacks all merging and sliding into MUD. Likewise, when I paint people, I find dark blond/blonde hair very difficult because of the ever-present threat of MUD. Finally, I think myself there is a big difference between landscapes and cityscapes in terms of difficulty. You can get away with wonky hills - who's to say they're not really like that? - but wonky buildings are plain sad. Or comic. Mine can actually be both :)

David J. Teter said...

Re: "art in general"

I can't decide if subject matter has or has not changed that much over the years.
My first inclination is , it has not.

The more things change the more they stay the same?
Anyone else?

Carol McIntyre said...

The hand. When I was painting and drawing hands, even non-artists would say that the hand was the most difficult subject to dray.



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