The Plein Air Scene

by Sarah Beserra

Scott Burdick, Sarah in Catalina, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches


Plein Talk

by Connie Kirk


When I started collecting art in the late 1960's as an aspiring artist, I collected Renoir, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Bruegel, Barque and Picasso in no apparent order. Every time I went to the Dewing Museum I would buy postcards of my favorite painters and then take them back to my little room in the "Mission" in S.F. and tape them onto my walls in a kind of collage design. Now, some 30-odd years later, I am collecting more contemporary artists' work, including my own.

I think collecting is a very subjective thing. Like picking out your own shoes. Paintings are really kind of like something you wear. They become part of who you are. And there is a kinship that happens between the painter of the painting and the person collecting it. It's personal and special. For me, those little postcards on my wall were my form of communication with times gone by - with the great painters that left their legacy of color, form, and beauty. They became my teachers.

Have you ever wondered what makes a painting good enough or special enough to be collected by someone or shown in a particular gallery? Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Haystacks were shunned by the viewing public and the art collectors of his time, and the galleries wouldn't give him the opportunity to show his paintings. For a painter, the beauty of crashing waves upon brightly-lit rocks, or a hot-pink and orange sky at sunset is certainly enough to inspire a painting. But that inspiration doesn't necessarily guarantee that the painting will be coveted, collected or shown in a gallery.

What is the criteria for a "good painting"? A few important ingredients come to mind: inspiration/subject matter, clear color, dead-on composition, size and variance of brushstrokes, continuity in use of palette knife, quality of canvas or board use, and most importantly, the eye of the beholder. Perhaps the critical ingredient is the subjective response of the person viewing it. A"good" or even "great painting" remains in the "stockpile" without someone who admires or loves it.

For every painting, there is a waiting period. It's like a "painting adoption" process. The painting must pass through the test of the persons considering a purchase or gallery showing For the potential buyer, new to the world of art collecting, his or her thought process might go something like this. Do I like the subject matter? How does this painting make me feel? Is this painter well-known? How much is it? Will the colors go with my décor? Is the size correct for my wall? Will it be acceptable to my friends/mate? Do I like it enough to spend that much $ for it? (left: Connie Kirk, Kayakers on Brighton Beach, 2001, oil on board, 11 x 14 inches)

And the gallery owners will have their own added criteria for the paintings that will grace their walls. Will the public accept this particular style of painting? Will this painter's paintings bring in "good money" to my business? Is this painter well-known and accepted in the art world? Is this painter part of an established painting group? Is the frame on the painting acceptable?

One might ask - is there hope for my paintings to be accepted, loved, shown and collected? (On any given Wednesday or Saturday evening, people line up for lottery tickets in California.) Kidding aside, I think the odds are better than the lottery; however, luck of the draw does seem to be part of the answer. The art world can be cruel, insensitive and unyielding. And it can be exhilarating and rewarding. I think that the best painters can expect from their masterpieces is a personal sense of completeness and satisfaction. Anything more is simply "frosting on the cake."

When I question my own ability as a painter, when I have those gallery rejections, I take great comfort in
knowing from history (even recent history) that some of the greatest painters never had the opportunity to show their work. And they still painted.


© Sarah Beserra, 2002

Read more of The Plein Air Scene by Sarah Beserra in Resource Library Magazine

Sarah Beserra is Editor and Publisher of The Plein Air Scene - a monthly newsletter on plein air painting in California. You may contact Sarah at or (707) 645-7361

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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