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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