Over dinner last night with my friend Destiny Allison, I was describing my litmus test for paintings that I liked by using the word “lick-able”. She laughed about it, and agreed that the tactile quality or sensuousness of the painted surface is an important factor for her too. After dinner while viewing a nearby gallery’s exhibition, I found that I would first go very close to each painting, practically sticking my nose in them, to see what the surface was like. I noticed that many of the paintings had a thin layer of paint – not as interesting as a glaze or a wash – just a simple plain layer that had no seductive quality to it. A glaze would be a thin layer that glows with the extra medium in it, and a wash would sink into the surface creating an interesting stain. No, these artists were obviously oblivious to surface quality, and used the paint sparingly, almost as if they were afraid of using too much paint. Or maybe afraid of the paint itself. In other words, I didn’t feel like licking, touching or otherwise longingly gazing over the surface. I also noticed that it didn’t matter whether the paintings were abstract or realistic, and unless first entranced by the surface, I never stuck around long enough to notice the subject matter. When a painter has the intent to create a seductive surface that supports the image or subject matter of the piece, the painting, in my opinion, moves into a higher realm by engaging more sensory experiences. And when the painter has a surface consciousness while painting, it adds this dimension naturally. This surface quality I am writing about is not to be confused with texture. Texture can add a tactile quality and make the surface more interesting (sometimes) but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings have a wonderful lickable quality while the paint is, in general, fairly smoothly applied. If you look closely at her work (in person, of course) you can see her brush strokes moving in various playful directions holding a variety of paint qualities. Yum!!! I would gladly bet that Georgia herself actually thought of licking the surface with her brush while painting. I mean, come on, we can enjoy the simple surface qualities of photographs and prints, but a real live painting in person when painted with the intent to create a seductive surface will get me every time!