Another title for this post could be When the Subject isn’t the Subject in a Painting. What do I mean?
The best way to answer that is with an example. Years ago I saw a painting that is an excellent example of what I’m talking about by artist Oleg Stavrowsky titled: Something’s Funny as seen here.
When you look at it, your eye will travel to the cowboy on the far left, holding his cowboy hat with his extended arm. From a compositional point of view, he’s the main subject of the painting. Or is he?
The real subject of the painting is not what’s in the painting, but what is going on outside our view that is making these cowboys laugh and take notice. We become engaged as well, wondering what it is that’s making them laugh. It’s a story line that we can take part in. Not that every painting has to tell a story, but it should not be overlooked how an implied story can emotionally engage your viewer. So don’t underestimate the value of how to improve your oil painting by creating a story in your own art work as well as improving the marketability of it.