Blog: “Coloring” in the Lines Part One

Christine Alfery

Posted on February 21 2020

Blog: “Coloring” in the Lines Part One

Not long ago I visited the Milwaukee Art Museum. Whenever I visit an art museum I head straight for the contemporary section to check out what is up, what is new, and to study what has been done in the past. I love the fact that the smaller museums have huge collections that they rotate periodically.  

 During this visit I began to notice how many 60’s modernist painters began by outlining their general compositions with black paint or pencil. Those artists who made a general outline and then filled them with color reminded me of “coloring” in a coloring book. Other artists completely obliterated the lines and went outside their original plan. I studied both.

Is it better to stay in the lines or use expressive brush strokes?

Ask yourself – what rules were we taught as children? I remember being taught as a child to stay within the lines and make all my fill coloring lines go in the same direction. I was told to stop making my fill look like a “tangled mess” within the shape. . Personally, I found this impossible to do. In fact I often found it was impossible for me to even sit still long enough to “color”. For me it was hard to follow directions – I have always seemed to want to make my own way.

As an artist and a philosopher of art, I often find myself questioning – why might someone want this painting that has teal in it? Is it because they like teal? Is it because they have teal pillows on the sofa and it will bring the room together? I wonder why we buy art – is it just to decorate, or is it something more? In the end I have to remind myself that sometimes you shouldn’t think. As art enthusiasts, ideally we just know.  If you like it – buy it.

 I recently delivered artwork to some of the most spontaneous art collectors who ever walked into my gallery. Their swift decision-making left me with questions as to why or how they decided so fast. But when I saw where they planned to display the artwork I instantly knew – they did this right. They immediately bought what they liked and were going to decorate the room around the art – exactly the way I always dreamed it should be. For me that that is the only way to choose an original work of art. These collectors were not “coloring” in the lines like they were told, instead they were making their own personal statement. For them collecting artwork defined the space – not the other way around.

Artists and collectors - do not limit yourself to the rules. When it comes to art, follow your heart. Paint what you love. Collect what you love. You do not need to stay in the lines.


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