Since in my post on Seurat I quoted Rilke’s “cell of my art” statement, I figured I might as well post one of my favorite all time comparison lessons on that style “commandment.” Above are two well known paintings by Van Gogh. One is painted by the artist we know Van Gogh becomes and one is painted before Van Gogh fully realized that transformation. I think the chief difference between these two paintings is how each painting relates to itself. The difference between these two painting styles is in the relation between what the painting conveys and how it is rendered. In the first, the smoking skull image, an idea of something is conveyed, however vaguely, without regard to how it is rendered. The idea is communicated then we notice how it is communicated, the calligraphy in which it is written. In the second one, the sunflower,what the painting conveys is conveyed through how it is rendered. It contains no abstractable message by which we can paraphrase it and do without the painting. The painting is all. I like to think that both paintings have the same thing to say. They are both Van Gogh expressing something, but only in the second painting is the artist mature enough to say what he means.
The Leaders of the Future at Project WOW! worked for two hours turning their silhouettes of Ball Categories into dynamic wall decorations for the mural. These will eventually share wall space with a special iconography they are developing and some sort of (possibly verbal) history of Project Wow!
We also started to talk about experimenting with colors in relation to the success of designs. Here’s a demo I worked up before the workshop. Weeks ago, after watching SENSOLOGY by Michel Gagne and MIGRATIONS by Alyssa Sherwood, participants tried to visually evoke beats they like. The first mural we are doing is for the drop-in center’s entry way and they are trying to create a welcome. Bashir — where are you Bashir? — said after watching the films that she’d like to try to use the techniques we saw to catch the spirit she feels upon entering Project WOW!: “Pump the Beat!”
These first drawings were experimental and didn’t generate too much enthusiasm. I played with a bit of this one by Midget (self-styled) to show how playing with colors, borders and ground colors could bring out what was potential in first efforts.
“The deeper the influence of the formal, decorative element upon the method of representation, the more probable it becomes that formal elements attain an emotional value. An association between these two forms of art is established which leads, on the one hand to the conventionalization of representative design, on the other to the imputation of significance into formal elements. It is quite arbitrary to assume a one-sided development from the representative to the formal or vice versa, or even to speak of a gradual transformation of a representative form into a conventional one, because the artistic presentation itself can proceed only on the basis of the technically developed forms…”
— Franz Boas, “Representative Art,” pps. 82-83 Primitive Art (1927)
I developed this exercise to demonstrate how complex pretty patterns can be built up out of simple shapes. I start talking about composition and mural design with simple ideas about pattern, repetition, positive and negative space, trying to get participants to see the graphic effect of what they are producing. I developed this exercise out of my love for kolam drawings. For the simple elements I went to my favorite drawing by a four year old. Below is a drawing by Nick (now probably 14) who was obsessed with King Arthur and Knights. I love that castle and horse. I think a t-shirt with that castle and horse on it would be great.
Besides the horse and the castle, Nick has pictured a knight with a sword and a feather in his helmet, and some other items I’m not sure what they are. A half eaten apple? An umbrella? A gift box? Actually I think the gift box is actually a sword in a scabbard. That scabbard image repeated in a radial pattern makes the star at the center of the drawing I produced. For the pattern demo I chose seven elements from Nick’s drawing, including the feather and a pocket in the knight’s armor that looks just like a comma. To those I added the larger organizing elements of concentric squares and circles.
Below is what I produced. About a third of it was freehand: it turned out it was speedier than Photoshop. But for things like Nick’s horse I had to share the original, so I cut and pasted. Participants were then given the organizing rings of circles and squares and asked to fill them in with the simple shapes like hearts, stars, diamonds, dollar signs etc., which were listed on the survey they took as designs people at the drop-in center would like to see in the mural.