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7 Methods for Choosing Better Subject Matter

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7 Methods for Choosing Better Subject Matter

Dear Dr. Maisel,

Once I start painting I know what I’m doing but I have the hardest time getting started. For instance I’ll set it up a still life and then I find myself asking, ‘Well, what do I want to do with this?’ It feels like I’m really very uncertain about my subject matter choices.

Do you have any suggestions for making subject matter choices so that I’m not always second-guessing myself and getting paralyzed?” – Dale L., Spokane

Thanks, Dale. Yours isn’t an uncommon problem.

For the Sunday painter, an apple (or anything else — a tree, a face, a barn door) exists as an object that, if you are skillful at it, can be rendered faithfully and maybe even beautifully. For the professional artist, the objects of the world are reference points that connect to a vast array of possible ideas, subject matter choices, and intentions. For the professional artist, an apple is not just an apple—it is a starting point. An artist may decide to use an apple in any of the following ways (and many, many more!):

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