Week 7

Today we started a new project. Last week I asked you to find a line poetry, a simply lyric or phrase that you would like to work with. I also asked you to bring in a random object and a full sheet of heavy print-making paper. 

In my demo I showed you three different artists that have used words in their paintings. The only one I will mention here is Ed Ruscha. I am realizing now that the other two artists might have confused what I was trying to teach.  

For this project we are going to work in stages but each stage is really an attempt to solve the same problem in different ways. The problem as I see it is that we (me included) painters tend to reach for symbols, illustration/representation and overlook some of the more subtle and effective means at our disposal to communicate visually. All of art is communication of some form or another. I want to get you to think more about how to manipulate visual information in order to communicate effectively rather than relying only on symbolic or literal depiction.

So we have a phrase or just some words. I used the lyric, "living in a fish bowl", from a Pink Floyd song. I want you to take your phrase and think of how you could manipulate the text visually to enhance or add to the meaning of the phrase. I do not want you to think of an image or images that would illustrate the phrase.

With my chosen phrase if I were thinking in terms of illustration I could make the "o" look like a fish bowl with me in it frowning. That illustrates very clearly what the phrase is saying. If instead I were thinking in terms of using the text itself to visually communicate something about the phrase, I would start with how I feel about the phrase and what it means to me. This might be something like a story or scenario or it could just be a feeling or vague idea. "Living in a fish bowl" is a negative, messy, restrictive, dark and oppressive idea to me. So how can I make the text itself look "negative, messy, restrictive, dark and oppressive"? Big letters or little? Cursive or block letters? Clumped letters or spread apart? Fuzzy broken edges or clean sharp edges? What visual information communicates these ideas or feelings? 

As I mentioned in class I don't know if I am explaining this very well so I will continue to work at it. I really do think it is an important shift we need to make in how we think about creating visual art. If we rely primarily on literal illustration to communicate in visual art I think we are overlooking some of the most profound tools we have to communicate visually. 


In two weeks we will continue working on this project. Try to finish the first phase that we started today - get the words on your paper in black ink. Just the words to start with. I will tell you what the next step is at the next class. So bring back what you have started along with the object you chose and all your usual painting supplies. We will start painting on these things next class - oil or acrylic is fine.