Some artists paint Plein Air in the outdoors, while others paint both Plein Air and in an indoor studio space. Some are exclusively studio painters. As far as process, some artists build their work in stages while others paint expansively with immediacy. These are just some examples of the vast variety of styles and processes from which painters work.
To enhance your understanding and appreciation of the work of a particular artist in whose paintings you may be interested, some of the areas you can explore are: 1) What triggers the artist’s impulse to create? 2) How does she choose a subject? 3) Where does the artist find a source for his/her paintings: from nature, from imagination or elsewhere? 4) What is her creative process? 5) What belief system does the artist hold that leads him in a certain way?
Another useful area to probe is the uniqueness of the artist’s work. Artists usually reach a point where their work differs noticeably from the work of other artists. Though the work may appear similar on the surface, it may be strikingly different in specific and identifiable ways. As Christian Krohg wrote in an article about Edvard Munch, painter of ‘The Scream’: “He paints, or rather regards things in a way that is different from that of other artists. He sees only the essential, and that, naturally, is all he paints.”
An Artist Statement can usually answer some or all of the questions posed above. Whether or not there exists such a statement by the artist, answers to your questions should inform you about the prompts that drive the artist and may enhance your appreciation of the artwork. The distinctive nature of an artist’s work may contribute to its value.
It has become customary for artists to sign their artwork and most artists do so. However some may prefer not to place marks on their work once it is finished, unless the mark somehow becomes a part of the general composition through placement, color and size of the signature.
There is a perception among some members of the public that the value of a work of art is somehow reduced if it is not signed. This may be true in cases where the artist’s ‘fingerprint’ is not easily recognizable, but in other cases the value may be greater than if signed. In some cases, the work may be signed at the back of the piece or in some obscure place that is not readily visible. Some artists have a ‘fingerprint’ so unique that they believe it is easily identifiable as their own creation and thus see no need to sign their work. In other cases a signature may not exist if the artist thinks that an additional mark on the piece will detract from the composition.