Looking for a sense of mystery in a painting

“As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow.” (Arthur Christopher Benson)

Looking at my beginning sketch here for a new painting, I’m compelled to search the scene and try to figure out what is happening. It is not just a collection of colors on the canvas. I see a path splitting off into two paths moving into a dark and beautiful forest.

Now I’m imagining a place in the scene to insert a home or cabin that could be a destination for one of the paths to end. Is this a new element I should  create in my new painting? Am I to tell a story?

I often do have a story in my mind as I paint. Writer Anne Lamott says it is good to allow the story unfold and watch the characters grow before her. It almost sounds like she is a spectator as much as an author. Perhaps painting is the same as the process goes. Might be a good way to work.

Should  a painting offer clues for the observer, and let them decide the meaning of what this image has to offer?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Paint this painting first, and see if the scene walks a line between the obvious and the suggested.

I suppose that if a painting describes a scene quite literally, mystery and intrigue would no longer be present. And that might be a loss for the viewer and painter as well.

“Never reveal everything in a painting; leave half out. You must leave mystery for the viewer.” -Howard Terpning



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