A broken doll, marbles in a tin box next to an old pocket knife with it's broken blade begins a story. A broken pocket watch resting next to tiny toy cowboys riding on pinto ponies add to the story being told of a youth long lost. Merit badges, a boy scout flash light, arrowheads - all real - the life most boys know. A broken doll may mean an careless moment or an inquisitive mind. A broken pocket watch, held by one's granddad, may bring that warm feeling one gets from their grandparents. Arrowheads, from trips with Uncle John. They are all fond memories.
Still-lifes are personal stories, even when the still-life is of a bowl of fruit it says who the artist is. Their selection of fruit reveals fruits they like to eat or grow themselves, like tomatoes still on the vine or apple varieties long forgotten. Objects that spark inspiration usually mean something to an artist. Old tools handed down from dads and granddads, wedding dresses hanging on a wall, all spark artists to pick up a brush to paint.
For me every painting I do means something to me. "Why else paint?," is my philosophy. If the subjects mean nothing to the artist how does one get through a painting? Artists lose interest in subjects they aren't truly connected to. I never lose interest in paintings I chose to do. Sometimes I need to dream up a connection, like connecting flowers to my mom's love of growing flowers and using only my sister's old dolls in my still-lifes. Placing a mussel shell with lilies and a mantel clock puts my brother with my mom and her dad in one still-life. Dried flowers in an old blue jar puts two wonderful friends together, jar from Jordan and dried flowers from my friend Adrienne.
I know not all artist work this way but it's how I work and how I read other's work.