Copyright Jacob Rowan 2014
Copyright Jacob Rowan 2014
A friend recently loaned me an excellent book on teaching art appreciation: Getting It: A guide to understanding and appreciating art by Becky Hendrick. Below is a simple outline of the book’s main points.
Art Appreciation=Life Appreciation
2 Requirements for Appreciating Art:
1. Look at it objectively without prejudice
2. Know enough information about its relationship to history and culture
-Not created for external demands (like graphic design or advertisements, it’s internally motivated)
-Non-verbal language, looking at art is like hearing a foreign language for the first time
-Content rather than subject matter (not an one sentence “answer”)
-“That’s terrible” really means “I don’t like it” Learn to be aware of personal preference
-If you bring the wrong set of expectations to a work of art you won’t be able to “get it”
-Most people spend an average of 10 seconds looking at a work of art
How to Look at Art:
-Describe it objectively without interpretation (a skill that needs to be practiced)
-Make subjective connections (this makes me think of_______)
-Analyze the content of the work
-Interpret and judge
-Artists communicate in a different language they learn through making art
-Line, shape, space, value, color, texture, etc.
-Artists make a series of decisions based on their knowledge of their visual vocabulary
-If it’s in a book or on a screen it’s not actually the work of art
-Pictures can’t communicate scale or subtleties
“Art may not ‘mean’ anything in the literal sense, but like the atmosphere preceding a storm, it puts us into a frame of mind for pondering the timeless questions of existences and meaning.”
Harry Clarke illustrated many of Poe’s stories and the above image from “The Tell-Tale Heart” is one of my favorites. Clarke’s use of design and attention to detail allow him to contain almost the entire narrative in this one memorable and eery image.
The video below is an animated short film from 1953 which communicates the visceral experience of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It tells the story through narration and a series of images rather than merely animating the sequence of events. Instead of being a traditional cartoon, the camera pans through a number of cubist-like paintings, focusing on essential details, symbols, and events in the story. The comparative stillness in most of the film makes the few sequences of action that much more striking. Visual elements like the old man’s eye are repeated and paralleled which heightens the sense of the protagonist’s mania. The dead white shape of the eye is mirrored in the moon, then a vase, and then again in the buttons of the police officer’s jacket. Overall this film finds a perfect balance between being innovative in a way the serves the source material while still being traditional enough to not distract the viewers with unusual form.
“Do you know what you’re actually in love with? Integrity. The impossible. The clean, consistent, reasonable, self-faithful, the all-of-one-style, like a work of art. That’s the only field where it can be found–art. But you want it in the flesh. You’re in love with it.” -Gail Wynand
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
I’ve been searching for new ways of giving my drawings depth and a more nuanced surface. The first step in that process was grinding my own ink which allowed me to apply multiple layers and have more control over the intensity and evenness of the black. After that I started adding graphite over the black ink on watercolor paper which creates a shimmering surface that ranges from velvety black to glisteningly metallic depending on the light (see the rightmost piece). At the suggestion of a painter friend I started mixing in small amounts of acrylic ink into the fresh ground ink to give it a subtle tinge of color. I mixed a rust ochre ink into black to create the lower section of the rightmost piece. The two inks separated after a few minutes which created the grainy, earthy quality you see above.