January 11, 2009

The Visual Music and Poetry Model


  1. Comment from a viewer: "The conflation of 'illusion' and 'poetry' begs a whole raft of questions. Generally, when we think of poetry, we do not think of 'description', nor 'conceptualization'.
    And there is no 'formula' that will enable anyone to create a good, let alone a great, painting. Otherwise great artists would be thick on the ground".

  2. Thank you for your comments. I would like to make it clear though that I am not saying that illusion and poetry are the same concept (conflation). Rather I am saying that in order to create poetry you need to be able to create an illusion.

    For example: to create the poetry of the pathos of a touching scene between a mother and child, a feeling of peace communicated by the sun setting over a calm lake, the energy of the crashing waves on a seashore, or the shock of a war scene (for example Goya's paintings of war) the artist need the skill to create a very effective "illusion" of the scene in two dimensions using paint.

    Your comment that "if there was a 'formula' that would enable anyone to create a good, let alone a great painting, would result in great artists being thick on the ground is well taken.
    However when you look at the each one of the four components of the model in more detail, I am not suggesting it breaks down into a simple formula, but rather into a large but finite number of design principles and constraints, some of which are understood, but many of which are only partly understood. The complexity arises from the interaction of those deisng principles and constraints - a complexity shared by all types of design problems, not just in the field of art. Now add in the technical skills needed to create an effective illusion, the pre-requisite to the poetry of a painting, and it is clear that the job of a painter becomes much harder and to become a master is extremely difficult.

    For example, to create the "poetry" in a painting requires the artist to be able to create an illusion in paint. This requires three major skills: the ability to draw accurately and copy shapes, the ability to simulate three-dimensional form, and the ability to represent color relationships from nature accurately. Just to learn how to draw sufficiently well can take four years of study, learning the structure of the figure takes even longer. Learning how to observe colors in nature accurately requires even more experience and skill.

    With regards to the 'far music' or underlying abstract design, the artist needs to master skills in notan design (design in black and white values), color harmony, and composition. Each of these involves dozens if not hundreds of interacting design principles.

    If we add the component of near music (the brushwork), and you need yet another skill to learn and master in order to do this well. Even John Singer Sargent, whose brushwork is admired by most artists, would repeat a single brushstroke five or six times until it was just right. Few artists ever reach this level of skill.

    Now add the "emotion" in a painting (the concept), and this simply cannot be learned. It comes from life experience. You need to feel the emotion yourself in order to be able to communicate it.

    This is why there are so as you quite rightly say, great artists are not thick on the ground. Even the great masters have only captured all of these components in some of their paintings, their "masterpieces".