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What Makes a Painting Good?

What is it that makes a good painting?

Oh my goodness. I’m stumped.

But not for long!

As I gather my whirring thoughts, I see my initial confusion is because it can be many, many things, and every person will have their own ideas of what makes a good painting for them.

I think first of what doesn’t, for me, make a good painting.

I’m not much bothered about the technicalities. Although it’s mildly interesting to read what paint, for instance, an artist uses, they could use the most expensive paint in the whole world and it wouldn’t matter a jot if the painting didn’t sing to me.

And I’m not hugely gripped by the provenance of a painting – where the idea came from, what the artist was feeling, thinking, eating, etc. as she painted. That’s about her, not the painting and not the way the painting and I interact.

So what, for me – and I stress that you may be different because, well , you’re an individual too -

what makes a good painting is whether I am drawn to it.

It’s that word ‘resonance’. Something in the painting reaches out to me. Through what means? I don’t know – directly through my vision and the space between us there is an instant realisation.

I feel as though the painting likes me too, or is calling out to me to appreciate it, or is speaking to me directly. Most often it’s because I’m struck – a bit like falling in love – by its beauty. Yes I know there are other things than beauty in art – but for me, nevertheless, the art that I love is mostly and usually about beauty.

So – usually – what makes a painting for me is that its beauty sings to me and then I’m singing inside too.

I don’t know how this happens and neither do scientists. It feels like the realisation of what ultimately is a kind of love between me and the painting comes through a dimension that we haven’t as yet charted – a bit like telepathy. It causes, for sure, a chemical reaction in our brains, upping levels of the feel good hormones like oxytocin and serotonin, and that translates as new emotions – love, pleasure – sometimes joy.

A memory of this emotion will flood me every time I even think of it. If I can buy the painting and hang it in my house, then it’s an amazing blessing because every time I take the time to notice it and look – really look – at it I’ll get that zing of pure pleasure all over again, and even when I’m not looking at it it’s like having a friend in the room – you like it that they’re there – same with a painting you love.

And the wondrous thing is that it has nothing to do with the art world’s view of a painting. If a painting pleases you, calls out to you, feels like it’s your friend and you’d love to live with it in your home, it doesn’t matter a jot whether it has a 99p start price on eBay or would take several millions of pounds to own. The value is completely in what it means to you and the lasting effect it has on you.

You might love, for example again, its quirkiness, its humour, its mix of colours, the way it was painted, the emotion it’s suffused with, its subject . You may not even know what you love about it or why. You just do.

That’s good enough for me. In fact it’s a miracle.

It doesn’t matter a jot whether anyone else thinks it’s good, - it doesn’t even matter if they pronounce it terrible. That’s their opinion, their stuff, their response.

If you love a painting and can afford it, make it yours because – for you – it’s good.

I wish you the joy of a painting you love.

With love and light, Jenny

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