Went to the retirement home again today. I took a lot of landscape and garden pictures based on what people had shown a preference for as a subject for their mural at the last coffee morning. I had just over 60 images of landscapes by painters as disparate as Egon Schiele, Ivon Hitchens and Eric Ravilious. I was fascinated by what people were interested in and what they hated, I was pleased I'd decided to take so many examples to discuss. We passed them around the table a few times, discussing the comparitive merits of colour, perspective and style, putting some to one side and then mixing them up again. Finally I held them up one at a time for mass scrutiny in order to make a pile of images that contained things people liked, and another of what they really didn't.
I asked them to look at the pictures not as complete images but as prompts and samples of nature. So "I like that picture" wasn't a useful comment but "I like the texture of the gold leaves on the ground between the trees, but I don't like the trees and I'd prefer the colours to be more green" about a Klimt painting of a birch tree wood in autumn was just the right kind of information.
I was interested to notice that the Klimt paintings were popular except when they were "too full", it seemed that people generally didn't like the overpowering heaviness in his paintings of trees and plants but liked the colours and some of the shapes. This surprised me because I thought the oppressive floweryness of some of the Klimt gardens full of hollyhocks and delphiniums described a full border at the height of a warm summer perfectly. When I look at those paintings my ears fill with the sound of bees. I had never thought of them as being confusing or too full but I can see their point.
Generally they liked Schiele's crucified yet delicate trees and the muted colours, but they didn't like Ravilious' subject or colour when I showed some of his images of the Downs.
I was struck by how a few people had difficulty reading some of the images; they saw figures with boots on in plants, or snowmen instead of paths, we had a laugh about that.
Anyway I think I can see a way forward to the next stage and we have agreed that I should go back with more specifically garden, blossom tree and plant based images. I have a style of approach in mind from what people said about what they saw so I will be interested if I have got it right.
The overall unanimous favourite painting of the morning was Van Gogh's blossom tree on what looks to be a manganese blue sky (but that might just be my printer).