The Feeling Side

What prompts me to compose a painting a certain way. Apart from artistic considerations, what are the psychological reasons behind my decisions?

I was reading the latest from Untitled (the NCMA’s blog) on artist Junius Brutus Stearns and it got me to thinking on this question. They are varied I think–the reasons–some are there in every work and some more specific to a particular piece or time in my life. Many of my pieces are of lone objects–like Green Boat & Sea or Adirondack With Brown Shadow–because of my emotional makeup. If I were to try and identify it better I would say it has to do with my feelings about the nature of life and the human condition. Then, some pieces are primarily composed for esthetic value, to create depth and interest, as in my painting entitled Wharf.

Young Girl Facing the Ocean by MTMcClanahanWorks can become more personal when figures are introduced into the composition. My painting of my daughter Young Girl Facing The Ocean (destroyed because I wasn’t happy with the legs) reminds me of Stearn’s Watering The Horses. What does it mean when one places the figure facing away? Is it about reflection, does it indicate the artist’s desire to delve into the psyche of man? I think so. Facing away, I believe, is synonymous with said reflection, indicates the artist’s desire to respond to, not only the subject’s but, his own feelings about life. The soul of the artist finds it’s way of expressing and the means are quite universal—as the meaning of certain colors and of shapes are universally held. Incidentally, if Stearn had placed the horses facing forward, and kept himself as is, I don’t think there would be the same impact on the viewer, it would seem more literary than psychological.

“this is what I want to portray in my work … emotion and reason, but I want to ere on the feeling side”

As well as showing the psyche of the artist, depicting reality requires feeling something about what you are doing, about the subject and about the moment you are in. This has been an emphasis for me lately in my thoughts, the balance between reason and feeling, between material and spiritual. The working of the mind is based in these dual realities, so to attempt only one emphasis does not imitate life. Paradoxically, intellect does not function very well without an emotive guide. I think this is what I want to portray in my work, in general, emotion and reason, but I want to ere on the feeling side.

Image: Young Girl Facing The Ocean (destroyed) 20×20 acrylic on canvas MTMcClanahan

MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at

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