Saturday, November 14, 2020

 Be a Sponge

    All English speaking writers and poets start with the same alphabet and the multitude of words created by those 26 letters. From that same pool of words, some writers will draw on their experience of the world and create epic descriptive novels and others will knit together three sparse lines into a haiku that I might suggest holds as much content as the novel. The former supplies us with more specifics and details, the latter requires the reader to contribute more to the story. Neither literary form is more valid than the other, and these are just two examples of the myriad of configurations the written word can take. All are different methods of expression that are born from the same vocabulary. 

    We can continue that analogy into every art form. In music, as another example, we have the same eight notes of the scale (12 including accidentals). That’s it. Yet musicians can put those eight notes together in so many different ways that we have the complexity of classical music with all its inherent mathematical sequences and equal in complexity, jazz, a style that strips away some of that structure to draw attention to the spaces in-between. Again, there are so many other “styles” of music but each draws from the same source of tones.

    So is it any wonder that in the visual arts we have the same phenomenon? There are so many options from material choices to color that the permutations and combinations are quite endless. There isn't only one way to paint. Attempting to put yourself in a stylistic box might be helpful for a while, to understand that boxes mode of working. A classical traditional painter has their own set of “rules” on how to apply paint to the canvas in order to create a painting that looks like a classical traditional painting. But the same rules would probably hinder an impressionistic or abstract painter. The first step in your artistic journey is to figure out what your personal aesthetic is. We seem to realize it’s ok to have a preference to the type of music we listen to or the literature we read, or even the wine we drink. But we often think we have to fit into someone else’s idea of what our art should look like.

    As I mentioned, there are some inalterable “truths” in every art form. A certain string of letters will always spell the same word. A specific sequence of notes will sound the same melody. Blue mixed with yellow will always create some sort of green. Figuring out the difference between these apparently inalterable truths and those that are up to bending though our artistic filter of experience is where the Art begins. You do not have to “understand” or “get” every form of artistic expression out there. That takes time and exposure and the willingness to let new ideas in. Keep an open mind to all you encounter as it may surprise you where this journey will take you if you stay receptive. Be a sponge, soak up everything you see and feel and then wring it out on the canvas in whatever way feels authentic to you.