It was Samuel Johnson who said, “The two offices of memory are collection and distribution.”

Pick Me! (watercolour - 66 x 18cm)
Pick Me! (watercolour – 66 x 18cm)

When selecting paintings for exhibition, or working out how best to group them online, it always makes sense to consider how the viewer will perceive them.  As part of my job, I have spent many years reading extensively on the subject of how we think, what makes us tick, how we see the world. The brain is a marvellous machine. Amongst other things, without us even being aware of it, our brains make logical sense of everything we see. We’re hard wired to look for the connections between things. Ever wondered why when someone says the word, ‘table’ we can’t possibly not have a fleeting thought of the word ‘chair’. It’s that connection thing. We group and associate what we see and what we hear. It’s one of the ways we make sense of the world.

The flip side is that, when we are presented with a number of items which are not logically grouped, our brains find it quite uncomfortable and we find ourselves thinking hard about what the connection is between the images. Unfortunately, when we’re doing that, we’re not thinking about enjoying what we see – we’re actually working quite hard in the background to solve a puzzle.

If you can create a collection, based on a common theme (subject, colour, style), the viewer’s brain can relax and focus on the painting in front of them. I’ve now got a small collection of shoe paintings – and commissions for more.  By grouping the shoe paintings together on one wall at exhibition (or on one page online), visitors could see a theme and start to think about how they liked it, and further, whether they would want to own one.

And as Samuel Johnson pointed out, as a general rule, collections are more memorable than single images.  Have you got any collections in your body of work? If so, what’s the common theme?

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8 thoughts on “Collections

  1. What does it say about me that when you said “table” my first thought was “cloth?” And funnily enough I don’t use table cloths and never have! LOL I like the shoe painting, rather elegant looking. I don’t have any collection of painting types though.

    1. Hi Sherry. Thanks for your comment on the shoe painting. 🙂
      As for your word association, there are a group of words that about 80% of the population associate which makes them generalists. The other 20% are classified as specialists. I think ‘cloth’ and ‘leg’ associated with ‘table’ probably fall into the generalist category, but I can’t be absolutely certain. That’s probably enough geek talk from me now. 😀

  2. I have some flowers and animals which I try and keep together when I have exhibited but not really know why until now!!! Will certainly keep this in mind for the future Vandy!! I think we seem to think we should be able to tackle any topic rather than specialise, I am certainly better at some things than others…. maybe rather than seeing that as a weakness I should embrace it and concentrate on what I am better at instead of feeling I should be capable of painting anything, then feeling disappointed when I’m not!!

  3. Love your shoe collection Vandy, I have a little experience in hanging exhibitions and we Lways work on themes such as colours, subject matter etc. My collections include Edibles, Florals, and Animals

    1. I think it helps your viewers to be able to see works in groups. I haven’t really thought about grouping by colour.

  4. I think having a theme or subject for a collection also gives you focus (something I need to work on!) at the moment I’m putting together a collection based on the ‘sea’. Your high heels are a great, I’m not surprised they are popular.

  5. Vandy – very interesting and a great tip on how to display one’s work. I have never thought about this before. I love those shoes…hope you will show more of this collection. Thanks for sharing.

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