how to view a painting

I heard recently that the average gallery goer actually looks at a work of art for about thirty seconds before moving on to the next work. This is discouraging news  since it takes anywhere from two to four months to complete one of my paintings. I would like to think my time and effort are worth more than a cursory glance in passing.

I've written before about working large to make an impression, which is one way of getting attention, but there has to be something more to keep the viewer's interest. When I was ten years old I went with my father to the museum and saw an exhibit of surrealist painters. I still remember in detail a large painting of a tree composed of little babies. My father and I stood in front of that painting trying to guess how many figures we could count in it. Also that day I saw for the first time Salvador Dali’s painting “The Persistence of Memory”. I know for sure we stood in front of those paintings for longer than thirty seconds. It was something I would not forget all these years later. I think that experience had a big influence on my becoming an artist.

While I've written about working large to make an impact, using subject matter that's layered with meaning, has a better chance of lingering in the viewer's mind long after it’s been seen. I don't mean obvious imagery that preaches and tells you what to think. It’s in the subtlety of subject matter that allows the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions. This gives the work power.

I've been told my large acrylic paintings makes the viewer uncomfortable. This is often typical of surrealism. If nothing else, it has given me a kind of freedom to take chances and force the viewer to have a kind of dialogue with the work. Hopefully this will make them linger longer than thirty seconds.