Can you answer quickly and succinctly when someone asks you "what is your art about?" ?
My Ancestor's Fertile Ground (acrylic and metallic leaf on canvas, 24"x48" diptych, $2590)
Over the next few posts, we'll look at deepening the meaning in your work and how to communicate that meaning to others. We may know how to go about painting a tree, or even golden late afternoon light hitting a tree. But how does one paint:
- an emotion?
- an inner state?
- an epic story?
Questions we might ask ourselves are:
- How do I deepen the meaning in my work?
- What do I have to say?
- How do I develop a library of symbols, a personal language that conveys deep inner truth?
- Will people ‘get it’?
Symbols are a great way to communicate meaning. Language is just a set of symbols that have been used somewhat consistently and people have come to some agreement about. For example, "table" means a flat surface supported by legs. As visual artists, our symbols aren't usually words. They are shapes, colors, and marks.
Let's think about meaning in visual artwork. I may be painting a tree, but:
- Am I painting a lovely tree that catches the light on an autumn day?
- Or am I painting a sentinel - a strong guardian and gatekeeper?
The former might feature a 'rule of thirds' rectangular horizontal composition, lyrical lines, and warm colors. The latter might feature strong angular linework that fills most of a square composition.
Here's another example. Think of a Victorian house porch with filigree woodwork and sunlight hitting hanging planters of flowers. Someone might paint this porch because:
- it is representative of a specific period of architecture
- the dappled light and shadow conveys a feeling of contentment and happiness
- this is the house where their mother, their mother’s mother, and their mother’s mother’s mother were born
What kind of visual symbols might you use to convey one meaning vs another?
These paintings of the female figure are by five artists. They’ve all got something different to say about the women in these paintings...
1. Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c.1485
2. Degas, The Ballet Class, 1873
3. Modigliani, Portrait of a Young Girl, 1910
4. Schiele, Woman With Bent Knee, 1917
5. Picasso, Weeping Woman With Handkerchief, 1937
What does each piece make you feel? What visual elements (marks, colours, composition, etc) perceive it this way?