While on my bike ride into work this morning, I was thinking about the difference between painting what is in front of you versus painting something in your imagination. I'm sure that I'm continuing to reveal my ignorance about art, but are there words for this? In literature, we have fiction and non-fiction. In art, there is life painting, or still-life, or landscapes, or representational art, maybe? And then work from the imagination would be abstract art, or maybe expressionist or maybe surrealist?
And I wonder this for personal reasons of course -- the majority of my work would be on the "fictional" side. I don't do much in the way of still-life or life painting or whatever the term is. So when I describe my work to others, I always have a bit of a struggle in describing my subjects. I don't really do much in the way of abstract work, but neither am I looking at something that is sitting in front of me when I choose my subjects.
I'm not really interested in going into the philosophical side of reality vs. the imaginary world and what either of these mean. And of course it would be silly to say that one or the other are more "real" as art, just as non-fiction and fiction writing both demand skill, nuance and imagination.
However, since I am so intersted in the message and meaning of art, I am grappling with the idea of subject matter. I remember a quote that Diego Rivera said in admiration about Frida Kahlo, something to the effect of "I paint what I see, the world outside. Frida paints from her heart." I think this is my ambition.