DEAR MISS MANNERS: Although I am not an artist of any kind, several of my friends and acquaintances are locally known professionals, and others are hobbyists who turn out beautiful work. I am occasionally invited to their openings, and I am never sure what to say to the artist on her big night.
Since I’m not knowledgeable, I can’t make comments like, “The brushstrokes on that camellia are out of this world,” at least not convincingly.
Ideas? Or should I stick to generalities?
Also, I was struck by how much one person’s paintings reminded me of the works of a group of world-renowned Canadian painters. Would it be OK to say something like, “Your take on the rocks and cliffs reminds me so very much of Tom Thompson,” or is that insulting?
GENTLE READER: It is not hard to please artists -- or any other creative people -- with compliments. Any enthusiastic generality will do. And while you are not there as an art critic, Miss Manners has a kind remark even if you really hate the work: “You must be so proud.”
As for comparisons, she suggests asking whether the other artist might have been an influence, which is slightly more respectable than suggesting that there might be some poor imitating going on.