- Lesson Details
In this lesson, instructor Steve Huston will lecture on the strategies that make your artwork more meaningful. You will learn how the parts of a whole can come together and create balance in a piece of art. Steve will demonstrate the different types of myths and truths in art throughout history. You will also watch him critique a series of previously submitted student artworks to better self-assess your assignment.
This lesson belongs to the course Creative Composition. In this 6-week course, Steve Huston will teach you the main visual components frequently used in fine art. You will discover how line, shape, and color help strengthen the storytelling of your work. Steve will show you examples from the Old Masters as he presents each significant concept. In doing so, he will talk about how these components are applied in other art fields. Since this course was filmed during a live workshop, you will also be tuning in to his Q&A sessions and critiques of students’ works. Moreover, you will watch Steve develop a composition for a painting from start to finish. After completing this course, you will gain a deep understanding of art philosophy and composition; what you need for creating successful artworks.
Throughout this course, you’ll have access to the NMA community for feedback and critiques to improve your work as you progress.
Transcription not available.
We're back, Caroline I've got your pieces here.
So what I would say on these is don't let the technique or the
medium overwhelm the thought process.
So the purpose of this is not to get a painterly technique going, although that
might be a sketch where you put energy into the medium, just to give a sense
of what's going to be in the finish, but more to the point is to work out shapes
and lines and all those design principles.
And so we need that medium not to be too crazy.
So having lots of smear, a lot of texture to the paper, the modeling of
the stroke even, that can get disrupted.
So what I would want to see here
is mass this out.
And if you lose some of the sky holes that you're planning to have.
Let's see here,
maybe a little gradation in the background, or that's showing the
spindly trees or something like that.
And maybe we do a few little dots like that to show the texture, but that's
it, just those little dappled sky holes.
Okay so, and squint at it.
If you squint, see if you're getting what you need.
So when I squint at the horsey here,
I'm starting to lose the character of its shape, its legs.
I don't care about that.
That doesn't matter.
You know, it could be a horse with no legs on the ground.
But I want to make sure that I'm feeling this in here as a mass.
Now, does that play, does the mass of the tree - let me darken a
little bit mass of the tre -e play into the mass of the background
or does the mass of the tree
set in front of the mass of the background and that sits in front of the sky.
Now here we've got our shapes coming in
in here, leading us down the road literally are set in the center there.
So let's see if, let me take this back.
Let's say we do that sketch then we say, okay, that gets me in, you
know, some good things about that.
Now I want to think, let's say about symmetry and asymmetry.
What am I going to do about that?
Well, one of the things I see that could be a problem is this shape and this shape.
And even though it's light, this shape, are all almost exactly the same size.
And then this shape's a little smaller, which is good.
And then we have this shape here, which is much smaller, which is good, but that's
getting a little too equal, let's say.
So maybe I keep them the same shape or the same size, but
they're very different shapes.
This is organic.
This is a trianglar, and this is a rectangle, or maybe I change their size.
So it looked for possibilities.
Once you've laid things down are things getting too different, too separate too
extreme or are they getting too much the same, too repetitious and too boring?
You've said at once you don't need to say it again kind of thing.
So we're going to say that even though these are very different.
This is water, and this is grass, we're going to make them the same value.
So that's great.
That kind of grouping is a good idea.
So we're going to group those together.
So how can we then
- let's see what we can do here.
We're grouping those together.
We're grouping the tree and the reflection of the trees together,
a lot of interesting stuff.
So I might want to create a little bit more action than through that
grouping, playing this edge of the pond here, opening it up.
The curve and also getting a little bit of that railroad track,
diminishing perspective idea.
So playing that up and then this.
Maybe in my world, real things are darker than the softer things.
Yeah, the reflected things I should say.
Get a few little accents, but nicely thought out, nicely done.
And a nice variation between the two.
This is actually more useful in a way than what the other students have done,
because look at how much Ryan's got here.
Working very simply.
Not simply crudely, although they're very simplified, but quickly getting
clear shapes, clear lines and alignments,
clear sense of scale, clear value and a good depth of field, you know,
good levels of space, all those five components we talked about.
And just at a glance, if you ran past this, you know, you'd get clear
differences between these things.
This has a lot of strong dark values.
This is dominated by light values.
There's no strong shapes at all there, they're all linear.
This is all vertical shapes with one strong horizontal.
This is drawing us in and we're - and we have really nowhere to go.
But that tree line there's nothing beyond it that's interesting.
Or we can look over here and even over here, this one and see three
nice variations of the same idea, more or less.
So I'm going to make
- I'm gonna make this nice and big and these small.
And then make this nice and big and these small, but much closer to us.
So that's a nice change.
Oftentimes just changing one major component, seeing how that affects.
I'm going to take this and I'm going to open it up into a curving line
and then bring in an inviting S curve there.
And that's this one, again a nice variation, just changing one or two things
and seeing how that affects the whole.
That's the way to do it.
It's more productive.
Let's put that way.
You might put a ton of thought into any single one.
You get ideas that then you can spend time exploring.
Everything's a little blurry, you're using kind of the blurred pencil feature.
So I'd suggest a little sharper just so that you can design shapes.
You know, I have that shape design bit going.
You know is this fairly architectural maybe, kind of stair steps.
And is this rounder more of a mushroom shape?
So those kinds of things, and once you get that, then you can start saying, well,
maybe I'm going to do that architectural.
And this rounder, but I'm push this one up higher.
So this ends lower.
This ends higher.
So they don't come together and pinch that space.
Or I really like the fact that they start to come together and pinch that space.
I'm going to play that up.
I'm going to squeeze that out and crowd that figure standing or that
fence post raised or whatever it is.
And you can, again, change one slight thing to fine tune a really nice idea.
So good job on that.
Very nicely done.
And you can see just the technique, the real graphic quality of this as
a gradation here, but for the most part, everything's really cut out and
it's almost like cutting out paper and scissors, like a Matisse scissor drawings.
Where he'll just cut out and lay it down.
That's a great way to work because then you can see the elements
and you can juggle them around.
You can take this over here and
move it in the next piece, move it up here.
So now we're starting to get these aligning up that way, rather than a
little more straight across, or we push it down farther and farther so
we get this action more happening.
So again, we find one thing that we really like, and then we can take it
and really fine tune it.
So that we get this moving through there in a zigzag
pattern, taking us through there.
So we're just tweaking it and nice variations to all sorts of choices there.
So the, the general thing is we'll pick one that we really like
okay and then we're going to do variations on that.
Moving towards a nice finish, then you'll say, well, I'm going
to push this up higher here.
Drag this lower, have this stair-step out.
And then I'm going to make these more middle value and these
even lighter or more spindly or something.
And I'm going to do a gradation, you change a couple things, and then
you say, no, I'm going to try again.
And I'm going to keep these down anchored to the bottom.
And keep this nice and dark and then this middle and have the top more open, the
skyline more open, and then you'd say no
and you'd say, do it again.
No, you do it again.
Keep working through, get four or five, six variations, then you say,
you know, it's okay, but I'm not sure I really want to go with that.
Let me try this.
And you do the same thing with that.
Or now I'm going to do a still life and you start over completely,
but the what ifs, that's what those little thumbnails are for.
So one of the things here, we might have a theme on this one right here,
or we have this strong horizontal, this bar, this kind of painterly
organic bar going on, and then it breaks below and it breaks above.
Breaks below and breaks above.
And so the whole thing is going to be about that.
So how can we play that up?
Well, one of the things I really like here is she played that up with the technique
for the skyline or the sky masses.
You did these little broken dabs in the masses.
That's very cool.
And then making this much darker here, you know, you can do another
one where you do a gradation you can play all the variations there.
You can have a splash of maybe some of this light splashes
across the countryside there.
So we get, again, those kind of dashing ideas that we had up in here.
So nicely done there.
One of the things that we always want to pay attention to, we don't always want
to do anything about it but this shape and this shape about the same, this shit.
About the same and they get smaller down here, but be careful.
Do we really want this and this to be the same?
And this is very close and that's very far so what are we going to do about that?
Maybe we add more sky holes to break it up, see the little light coming through.
Maybe we add more of that to break up that shape.
So it has the same mass overall, but it's fractured by those
breakthroughs or the backlighting.
So one of the things we're trying to do is in effect, find some overarching idea,
some motif that we can hang the whole thing on and potentially every stroke
and every color and every choice on.
And so maybe this one we're going to
have everything very ragged.
These ragged organic shapes.
And then as we move back in space, they become more and more uniform and the kind
of chaotic or organic quality starts to become more, more of a tailored lawn,
more of a landscaped aesthetic space that goes from kind of wild overgrowth
to a little bit more contained to pruned back and then perfectly manicured.
And so we have this evolution in my world, as you go into deeper space
order is imposed on nature, let's say.
And you can see how pretty pastels are together.
You're going from purple to yellow.
So you're doing a whole range of colors there basically.
And yet they work fine together.
And one of the powerful things about keying colors is you can make it a
- the whole thing, a very blue world.
With all sorts of variations
And so it's all working in this blue world and then it's like
a good punchline to a joke.
Or do a big reveal in a, in a drama.
Bang, you set us up.
So again, don't let the technique overwhelm the exercise.
So do a few that are nice and painterly and nothing wrong with that.
But what we really want is to just determine the shapes and the placement.
So maybe these are dark value and these are middle value and that's light value.
And so we want to play out that scenario and then think about exactly
what character of shape are they?
Are they stair-stepping forms?
Are they ragged forms?
Are they, as you have here, exploding forms?
What are they?
Maybe we're going to play the leaning forward, things lean forward.
The horses lean forward.
Maybe there's a little broken shapes here.
This is going off.
Everything that we have in terms of visual ammunition is taking us off to
something over here we can never see the whole world is anticipating, you
know, the broken dappled limbs and leaves coming off all kind of break
away and everything drifts over to this off-camera thing we'll never know, kind
of waiting for Godot kind of thing.
So there's a good balance between being painterly and quick and loose and still
controlling the information so that we're getting a clear sense of things.
So nice variations.
It's always interesting to see things at different angles.
So look at just the variety of line.
A little on the branches and stuff.
That's really interesting.
Or we create a real formal space, of verticals and horizontals.
And then we start to play against that.
We get just a little crazy, a little wild there coming off that variations
organic evolution, we evolve off that or the whole world leans
forward in a different way than that
other one that we just did.
The whole world leans forward to to the anticipation of the sun rising,
let's say that warmth that they crave.
Just like a sunflower will turn towards the sun.
This whole world is leaning in towards that sunrise as it
breaks over the mountain peaks.
Or we zigzag back into that world.
Hopscotching from place to place to place.
So good possibilities and each one could be taking that idea that was inherent.
It was the idea I said or something completely different and just playing off
it with four, fix, six, twenty variations.
So now let's take this a little bit different direction.
This one right over here.
Notice how there's no distinct shapes really, they all kind
of wander in to each other.
They kind of like wander around, bumping into each other in a crowd, they meander
around and they're not real distinct.
They're all kind of soft.
And so you could make the whole thing.
Kind of non shape there.
Of course there's shapes there, but it's soft and lost edges to the shapes.
He can't quite get hold of them.
They're smoky, sfumato, they would say in sculpture.
And that might be the whole point.
And then at the very end, you come with one strong shape.
You know, that's the whole point or you never do.
You never can quite get hold of this world.
You know, it's all smoke and mirrors, whatever you grab just dissipates.
You know and that can be really beautiful.
And again, the lighting situation, dramatic fog or a
nocturne can force that effect.
So here we might think of this as this.
We just want to push it off axis, off that center line a little bit.
And so we keep playing with that.
And one game you can do is you can take the whole thing and say, I'm
going to take this whole horizon.
I'm going to push it off axis a little bit.
And then I'm going to take this shape here and I'm going to push something
just off the middle of this quadrant.
And take something here and push it just off the middle of that quadrant
and you can break it down and graphic designers will do variations of this
and gridding process, but you can take each of these quadrants and break it
down further into a brand new little frame within the frame and keep going
off axis somehow, one way or the other.
And so by the time you look at it then everything will feel slightly off kilter,
you know, nothing ever aligns quite right.
We'll make sure this doesn't align with that.
This doesn't align with that.
This doesn't align here, here.
So we scoot it over here.
We put this to this side, adjust it there.
It never quite cohere.
They never line up.
They never tie together spatially, or we can't get closure out of it like
we can, when we see these kinds of arrangements, there's closure there.
Now we have foreground background
and we can have a dark figure
on a light background.
We can have a light figure
on a dark background.
We can have a full value figure.
on a middle value background and we can have the reverse of that.
A middle or limited value figure on a full range background.
Those are our four foreground background designs, basically.
Let's do this for just a second.
Not that Lee's choice wasn't a good one.
May well be a better one than what I'm doing, but just to make the point.
We have dark figure on a light ground.
Let's go ahead and do this.
So we have this design, but now maybe the whole punchline or, or after the
first read are real pay off second read.
This little deer crossing or stop or caution, don't feed the dinosaurs or
whatever it is, then we reversed the whole thing and we have a light on dark.
So dark on light and then light on
So it's interesting that you can flip those things back and forth and reverse
the silhouettes, the values so that you're getting one thing framing the next.
And that's another way of doing the frame within a frame.
You can actually bring in an architectural element,
like a doorway or a wall, and re-invent the frame into some
new smaller frame, like that, or you can frame within this way.
Looks like we have two more.
Now Jennifer is doing the lovely tone paper design.
I've got great sympathy and affection for using tone paper.
One of the reasons is it's very close to the painting process
You're working with three values.
You've got middle value paper.
Usually light, middle value.
You've got white chalk and black, whatever ink in this case.
And so you've got three distinct values and that's a good beginning as we
talked yesterday, three values to design space with our foreground background,
light and shadow relationships.
Nice, simple way to do it, but also oftentimes what we do is
we'll put down a toned canvas
and then we'll come back over that and push our lights and our darks
to create the contrast that we want.
And so that's a real quick way to paint.
It helps to harmonize because whatever tone you put down here
will affect the other colors.
It helps to harmonize the colors and it's quicker to render, you get the design
idea down more quickly not to render, but to get the basic, the underpainting in.
And so when I work like this on paper, I get an analogy of drawing to painting.
It's an easier move from drawing to painting.
And then let's look real quick here.
Look at how fun that watery vertical is.
Sometimes you just get one thing and you might say, I hate the rest of it, and
I don't hate the rest of it, but I hate the rest of it, but just that idea of
bringing down this real watery vertical, this waterfall of dark
value or light value or middle value is a really great idea.
And maybe we do that and then we frame it against something very
architectural here or whatever, but that's kind of a cool idea.
It's analogous to this watery S-curve going into space.
That's a great idea whoever invented that, we all use it now.
It's a great idea.
That could be something similar or these very quiet horizontals.
And then this kind of bungee sticks.
These verticals poking up at various angles is very cool too.
They're the reeds in the swamp kind of thing.
So this will be our last one.
All right, so Patrick, nice job.
This is again nice efficient technique.
You're hatching things in.
We see the strokes of you laying it in.
Nothing wrong with that because they're contained in terrific shape.
They're not perfectly worked out shapes, but they don't have to be.
They're nice solid shapes.
Notice when you deal in those strong three value silhouettes,
you get a very clear understanding of your three levels of space.
What's in front, what's in the middle and then what's in back, you know,
that comes through very quickly.
How do we get from front to middle, this kind of meandering move here is terrific.
Let's really celebrate the fact that the front level of space is separate
and contained despite all its detail and energy, and it cuts away and
does not flow into the spaces behind.
Each space has its own integrity, or let's take everything and
tilt it on a slight angle.
So we can subvert that horizontal and the verticals if we wanted to.
So we never get a vertical or horizontal.
They're always tilting.
That's a very powerful idea.
You know it can be the basis of a whole design and notice
how it moves you through space.
So a nice job on those, those look great.
Transcription not available.
Painting, just a nice little book.
And it shows some of his paintings, his incredible color.
So these don't do them justice.
Here's the little studies breaking things down into basic ideas, but he's
got a ton of those, well worth reading.
It's pretty easy read.
I recommend it.
You know, be a sponge, just get every source.
You know, I'm stealing from writing theories and from film theory
and of course color theory and anatomy, all that kind of stuff.
Get it from everything.
All right so let's talk about some big stuff.
Art is an idea.
An artist is someone who has an idea about the world.
If we are draftsman, strictly draftsman, the two ideas are structure and gesture.
And that's the parts in relationship,
relationship to the whole
things fit together.
That's our project.
So our talent, our skill set, our job description as artists really
is not to copy the world, but to translate the world and hopefully
give that world some kind of meaning.
So how do I get this part and this part to fit together and ring true as a whole arm.
And how does that work with the whole body?
How does this body work with the whole composition in the background?
So the great project, the great craft of the artist is to work with
the parts, find the relationship between the parts to create a whole,
in other words, to find the balance.
And that balance, whether aesthetic or not, we're going to stick with that
with this group here, me included.
That aesthetic balance is pleasing and powerful and hopefully meaningful.
And here's what I mean by that.
Now I'm going to do a little bit of talk and some of you who know my teaching
MO will have heard some of this before.
I'm going to take it a little bit farther this time.
So bear with me if you've heard this bit before, but the parts
in relationship to the whole.
And so what we're interested in is really a binary problem.
The part, the structure and we have the gesture.
And the interesting thing about it is every single art form has
that same binary structure to it.
There are the notes and then the melody, and that's create some music.
There are the steps, put them together, you have the dance,
the characters put them together.
You have the story, the colors put them together.
You have the painting.
Every single art form is working with the relationship of several
separate pieces, the several inherently different pieces and
their job is to put it together.
And so there becomes this balancing act in good craft in every art
form where you've got to create an artwork where the part is celebrated.
That blue in the sky is a gorgeous blue in the sky, but that blue in the sky,
that one particular element fits in beautifully with all the other colors,
the colors that are in the sky that are in the foreground and such.
And so the color is beautiful.
If it harmonizes, if it relates together, it's powerful, if it works
together under some emotional rubric, if it's challenging, if it's shocking,
if it's gorgeous, if it's sublime, you can attach an emotion to it.
And that will be our intention, but there's this balancing act between
getting the part to be a beautiful, important, valuable piece, but it's
still got to become a member of a whole, it's got to fit into the group.
So it's got to have its own to use the terminology we've been
using for the last day and a half.
It's got a contrast to the whole.
So it's blue, it's definitely blue.
It's its own thing.
And yet it has to have some affinity.
When the rest of the colors, it has a little bit of red in the blue.
So it harmonizing keys around red it's slightly grayer and lighter.
So it's a pastel that has affinity with the other pastels.
We find some strategy as the art maker of the crafter of our art form
and in all the art forms where we celebrate the part, but have it then
submerge and fit into the whole.
And not only that, but make the whole better for its presence.
And so if we take our color, for example, the craft of painting,
we take our oil paint color,
and if we don't allow it to be its own thing, if its blueness is so
submerged into the whole, this starts to lose its quality of blueness.
It starts to get muddy and dirty the color gets, gets muddy.
And that means that the part has now so submerged, been so mixed in with
the rest it loses its personality.
If on the other hand, if we let that part be too much of itself,
too different to separate, then it's going to be sharp and garish.
It's going to look harsh and out of whack with the whole, it's not going to fit in.
You're going to have that whole painting that one thing is going to jump out
and destroy the harmony, the whole.
So we have this incredible balance that we have to do.
And in writing, they oftentimes use the tight rope or the razor's edge idea.
But we have to balance it.
Now, every art form goes through that.
And why would that be?
It would be because the art is really reflecting life.
Our life experience is exactly that same thing, where we, as an individual have
to be able to show our stripes, have to be able to show and be allowed to blossom
and come to full power and to be able to succeed and conquer the world and
all those things that you want to do.
And yet we also have to fit in with our community, our family, our other
artists are a people of our religion or nationality or the human race or
whatever it is, the tree huggers, whatever group we associate with.
We need to find the balance between fitting in.
If I go on a first date, I want someone who's not so different
that we argue the whole time.
And I don't want someone who's so into saying that she just goes,
yeah, yeah, yeah to everything I say.
That's no fun.
I want someone in the middle we get along, but she challenges me.
I agree with her, but I make her think about something a
little differently mainly.
There's a little bit of juice there, a little bit of power.
And so that's what we're after.
And so really when the audience comes to us as artists, what
they really want to see.
Is a way to live a life well, that's really what they're after.
They desperately want to feel like by experiencing that artwork, that
novel, that painting, whatever it is, they're better for it.
They now have a little bit more insight on how to make it through the day.
One of the great problems we have is that life is just full of paradoxes.
Just think about it for a second.
The moment we come into this world, the moment we're birthed
into this world, the cord is cut.
We're separated from the source of our creation.
That's true biologically, and it may well be true on other levels, depending
on our belief, but we are separated out and then we spend our whole life
on a certain level trying to reconnect that tight rope, trying to get what we
need, but still give enough back that we were accepted into the community.
How do we balance that?
We'll spend every day of our life trying to achieve that balance.
And sometimes it's just beautiful, life opens up, it's an easy meandering road
into the world world, and we do great.
Other times there's obstructions in the way and it fights us every step of the
way, it's a traffic jam on a freeway and we don't even have a car to drive in.
But life has these paradoxes, whatever we get get from life
that's good, we will eventually have to give back.
As a - let me look at a quote here real quick.
Shakespeare puts it, a time will come and take my love away.
We're going to experience that.
In life, as soon as we come into this life, we're going to lose
our life and lose everything that's dear to us in the life.
How do we deal with that emotionally?
How do we make that tragic situation work for us, or at least be tolerable for us?
So there's all sorts of issues like that.
Society has to coerce its citizens to make sure those citizens are free.
We've got to put the bad guys in jail.
You can't yell fire in the theater.
We have to, as a society by force, we have to put down the individual
to protect the individual.
How do you balance that idea out?
How do you balance life and death, gain and loss, war and peace?
What's the scales that is going to measure that correctly?
There's no way to get it just right.
And that's why we have political swings going back and forth between
more or less, more left, more right.
More to totalitarian, more democratic, where we struggle to find those solutions for
all sorts of reasons and work through it.
So life has these incredible paradoxes and since the enlightenment
we've been on a kick to be more rational.
And for darn good reason, not that many witches get burned anymore
and there's things like that.
But also the great gifts.
We have vacuum cleaners and dishwashers and flights to LA from little places
to big places and flights to the moon and microwaves and cell phones and,
and a smart, this and smart that.
It's given us great, great gifts and it's saved lots and lots of misery,
probably still a lot of good things, but it hasn't done everything.
We're not completely sure but anthropologists would argue, I
think in general that the idea of self is an evolving idea.
And so early prehistoric man did not think of themselves
the way we think of themselves.
I want, I need, I expect, I need reimbursement, I need payment.
You know, me, me, me kind of stuff.
There's lots of good things actually that come with that.
But the idea of the part being glorified is fairly new in terms of evolution.
In the old days, we think it was really the group that dominated and the sense
of self they didn't fixate on that.
I don't have the latest new carpet or cell phone and fixate on that.
They worried about the group surviving and everybody did their
chore to keep things moving along.
That's evolved as rationalism is coming, enlightenment moves to modernism,
modernism moves to postmodernism.
That rational self idea post-modern has evolved and changed.
And as I said, brought great gifts, but also problems.
Again, the balancing act and as the head has dominated, the heart has suffered.
And so we are now in an age and have been for quite awhile, two,
300 years in the thick of it really.
We're finding that the part suffers.
well, when I go to school, I can be anything I want almost in most societies,
many of the societies let's say.
But then what do I want to be?
What do I want to do?
There's no beaten path to follow.
There's no rules of the game.
And so one of the jobs of the artist is to help us feel what we need to feel.
We think things through.
The rationalism o the enlightenment has turned into the postmodernism
of deconstruction and relativism and really kind of in a sense,
the destruction of truth.
There's not one religion that dominates is not one.
Way to look at it.
There's a lot of ways to look at it.
And in America there's was a famous incident where a politician was on the
stand and they were being grilled and the prosecutor wanted to prove he was a liar.
And he was trying to prove that he wasn't a liar.
And he said, well, when you asked me about that, it depends on what you think
the meaning of it is is, the word is.
That's perfect postmodernism.
We can parse out everything in life if we really want to, because we're
so darn smart, parse it out and we can come up with our own truth.
That again, there's a lot of blessings in that, but there
comes with some curses, issues.
So in a world
- Put this over here
in a relative world, postmodern world, where everything is dissected.
Dissected or deconstructed.
Why do we hang on to, to feel safe?
The theologian, the philosopher, the artist, our job is to
provide that, provide not necessarily the truth, but at least a truth.
And maybe it's a lowercase truth.
It's a little truth, but that's important too.
And so our job is not just to create something that's challenging, that sticks
it to the establishment or attacks.
The other side in favor of our side is not to do that.
And it's not just to show pretty pictures, to celebrate aesthetics.
It can do that.
There's times where it's appropriate and do that.
Art in art history has done that all the time, but the higher
calling for the artists is.
Tell the audience, some kind of meaning about life, hopefully
a strategy or an idea offered they can lead to a better life.
And so what we're looking for really is a little bit of help in the age we live
in and the artists have forgotten this.
And so as composers, the compositions, composers of our chosen craft
music, painting, drawing, whatever it is, we need them to take those
aesthetic, all those principles, all those visual components of design
and have an idea that can bring a little truth, bring a little help, bring a
little meaning to the people that want it.
I said yesterday art's one of the few places in the world in a life where
almost everybody is going to root for you.
Everybody who comes in that gallery wants to see a masterpiece.
Everybody that walks into the theater wants to watch a masterpiece, read
a masterpiece, hear a masterpiece.
They want it because they are hoping deep, deep down that
they'll find meaning with that.
They'll find a strategy to make their life more valuable, more
meaningful, more truthful, more pleasurable, whatever it is.
And so I'm going to suggest - some of this I'm talking about, by the way,
Rollo May, there's a lot of different sources to find this stuff, but Rollo may
was a writer, psychologist and 50s, 70s basically, who has a series of books out.
One is the Cry for Myth.
Another one is The Courage to Create.
And he has a others, but they're great books.
They have a certain political ideas that you can brush past.
We don't care about that and they're gently offered, but really what he's
doing is he's saying we're living in.
Age where there's no mythology, there's no roadmap to follow.
And so people are out there grasping and desperate and hanging onto whatever
they can and not finding a way.
And he talks about the Otto Rank, who was a psychologist coming out of
Freud, student of Freud, and he has
two ideas, fear of life, the life fear and the death fear.
The death fear is the fear that if you go into a situation, you lose
yourself and the group takes over.
It's a zombie, in fact zombie movies are all about that.
Terminator, turn into a machine, turn= into a zombie, losing yourself.
You can track horror, film or horror stories in any form
and whatever the society is
stuck on at the moment, that's what the fear is.
And right now zombies and has been for awhile.
It's afraid that technology.
You know, the drones going overhead, the authorities listening to your iPhone
or your internet tweets or whatever it is, are going to take you over.
Fear of getting lost in the whole.
And the other is fear of not fitting into the whole, fearing
that life will pass you by.
And that's that same balancing act.
The fundamental fears of our life according to this gentlemen
is the same two dynamics that are in every craft of art.
So the fear of losing the part into the whole and fear of the
whole not accepting the part.
Part in the relationship, how do we fit in?
That's where we're at.
That's what we're looking at.
He refers to a story by Camus and it says artists appropriately enough and he's on
his death bed and as he dies, they, they go at his last painting, it's a blank
canvas and there's one word scrawled faintly there, and it's either solidary,
as in solidarity, coming together for strength and solitary, being alone.
And the point of the story is to live a successful life
you need to have both.
You need some alone time.
You need to be your own person and do what you need without
the pressure of the group.
And then you need the support of the group and feeling like you fit into that whole.
To have a meaningful life too.
And again, the balancing act between, and so his real point encouraged to
create is to say it takes exactly that.
Courage is the same route as the French word for
- I'm going to butcher this - coeur, heart.
And the heart is the driving engine of the body.
It fuels the rest of the body.
And so your courage should fuel your life.
The courage to create, it takes a lot of courage to start with the blank
canvas or a blank piece of paper and create something from nothing, to take
something and develop it and give it life, compose it, having a world that
makes sense, to make a world from nothing.
Incredible act of courage and of personal power.
And yet you also need the audience to react to it.
to hope to achieve that balance.
And so what we need to do then as artists is we need a little bit broader skill
set, not just good values, not just good shapes, all those other kind of stuff.
Know where to put your marks.
We need good ideas.
We need good metaphors.
The metaphor is a wonderful thought, wonderful idea.
The metaphor is a lie that tells the truth metaphor
is a heart fact, as opposed to a rational fact, we can't go into the
laboratory and prove a metaphor.
We've got a lot of laboratories that do that just fine.
They put us on the moon.
They let us talk from incredible distances at the speed of light, the
thought facts do wonderful things.
We're missing that meaning though, having the best washer and the best watch in
the world doesn't mean you're happy.
The surprising thing about it is rich people are just as sad as poor people.
They just have their own set of problems.
Those kinds of things don't solve anything really.
They've done studies where a poor person wins the lottery and wins $400 million.
They studied them three or four years later.
They're just as miserable as they were before or a perfectly healthy
person loses the use of their legs
and they're stuck in a wheelchair three or four years later they're
just as happy as they were before.
Of course, it's nice to have money.
Of course, it's a shame to lose your legs, but the meaning for your
life, how you live your life and the real difference in your life
doesn't happen from those trappings.
It happens from some deeper center.
It happens from the heart.
So the artist deals with heart facts let's call them.
You can't prove it in the laboratory.
In fact, the odds are you'll disprove them in the laboratory,
but they work for us on an emotional level, a lie that tells the truth.
You go to any science fiction movie or read any novel in the last 50 years
and you'll hear the line a storm is coming.
I actually heard it on some TV promo to something.
I dunno what it was, some police or something, and the
character goes a storm's coming.
Now, when that character said that in that story, where they're saying, uh-oh,
the weather channel says we're going to get a tsunami or a hurricane coming.
No, he meant bad times are coming.
You're going to have emotional trouble.
He lied when he said a storm is coming.
That was a scientific falsehood, but it spoke to a deep, emotional truth in a
very efficient way and a more powerful way than you could have done just by
saying, oh, you look so sad there.
A storm is coming.
What, what do we know about a storm or one I use all the time is God is a rock.
That's a lie.
If there is a God, he's certainly not a rock or she's certainly not a rock, but
we can't understand about God, can't quite get a grasp of God he's not here to talk
to, but we understand rocks pretty well.
There are strong, solid and breakable.
They last forever.
Basically it's a great foundation to build on.
It can crush you if you don't treat it with respect.
All the properties of our rock and give us insight, understanding and
comparing something that we know well to something that we don't know very
well can give us great insight to that.
And so it just to say you're sad or troubled, doesn't give you near
as much insight as saying you're in a stormy place in your life.
That metaphor of storm gets to a deeper, more powerful truth and
it rings true on a deep level.
So that's what we're after is metaphor.
We want really, we hope to have really in our art mythology.
We're really mythologists, we're going to build a myth through a
series of paintings, hopefully, and over a career or a series of
songs over a career we'll build a worldview where little boys can be
wizards, or God is a rock or life is a punch in the nose or whatever it
is, or life is a beautiful sunset.
Life should be gorgeous colors, whatever it is, build a mythology
up and it brings insight or at least peace comfort to people's lives.
So in mythology,
we have this emotional truth that comes through in a deep
way and gives us possibilities.
And there's several mythologies right now that are informed, but we're just going
to talk about a couple of them real quick.
The wasteland motif was T.S.
Eliot wrote this poem and it's all but unreadable poem, frankly, when
you look at it, but the idea, unless you just love poetry and you're a
student of poetry can be a tough one.
The wasteland motif comes from the Arthurian romances, the Arthurian
mythologies legends and The Wasteland says that the king is connected to the land and
the land will thrive as the king thrives.
And the land will suffer as the king suffers.
In a more democratized world that we live in, more self-aware, the self is
more important than it was way back when we can just substitute men and
women, Man with a capital M as the individual thrives, the world will thrive.
And as the individual suffers, the world will suffer.
The Wasteland is saying that the whole world is one big metaphor, one big
symbol of self and the world is so troubled because the individuals are
so troubled and the individuals are so troubled because the world's so troubled.
They're tied in together and artists have known this on a
deep level for a long time.
We'll come back to that and I'll show you visually how that works.
But really what The Wastelane comes down to is fragments.
Elliot said is in the modern age, everything's little tiny
fragments that don't fit together.
It's shattered glass from a bunch of different mosaics.
They don't have any hope of fitting together.
And this is a great metaphor for how many people feel.
My job doesn't support my passion.
My family doesn't understand my struggles.
My bank account won't support my lifestyle.
We have these pieces that we can't fit together quite well, or every time we fit
our piece together, somebody comes in with a new piece of their own, the whole thing.
And so I won't go through the whole.
Tale of how he constructed this, but basically the idea of
fragments is a very powerful idea.
And most of contemporary art
believes that the world is a wasteland.
And that our worst fear about life, that auto rank set of fears,
our worst fears are confirmed.
So when you look at the modern art, the Jackson, Pollock's the Braque
cubism, you know, Jeff Koons and all his guys genuinely they're
confirming our fears about society.
There is no real truth.
You can completely redefine what it is is, is it's deconstruction, it's fragments.
That's what postmodernism is.
It's really a wasteland in a sense.
It might afford incredible freedom and work for some, but
it's not working for a lot.
Interestingly enough, the traditionalist and there's all
sorts of exceptions to this broad generalization, traditional people
are gone to the old time religion of
art like we are, are reassuring us that we don't have to be a afraid.
So let's just say reassuring.
If you were of the more contemporary camp, then you're going to take all
of your visual components and you're going to tend to want to disrupt
them and throw them out of balance.
If you're of the traditional aesthetic camp, you're going to want to reassure
them that the world does reflect the individual that the world and the
individual are connected in a deep, powerful, and maybe even metaphysical
way, depending on your feelings there.
And there's going to be an aesthetic truth that shines through.
There's going to be a happy indeed.
Everything is going to come together and you can see this play out
obviously in philosophy and religion.
So one of our needs as an artist is to decide what camp we're in.
My guess is we'll all be in this more or less, not maybe
a hundred percent, maybe 75%.
But we'll be in this camp.
And so when you are taking the principles of composition that we've
talked about and making this shape play up in many different ways, in
many different guises throughout the composition, what you're saying is that.
The world is not fragmented.
It's not a wasteland.
It's not broken.
There is at least the hope of it all fitting together and not only fitting
together gather but supporting you.
And so when we look at film, for example, and the character's really sad
in the film because she lost her dog.
All of a sudden the window outside, the rain starts coming down, or we
see the guy going to the haunted house where 40 other guys who've
been killed in the last 20 minutes.
And there's a monster and he's scared to death, his emotions.
Like this and the lightning starts, or the power surge is on and off.
And the thunder crashes and, and the visual components of the world
in those films are supporting the emotions of the character.
And when the character is sad, the world's sad with him.
And when those character's scared the world is being more scary.
And of course you can play against that idea.
And so you look at a Star Wars or a Indiana Jones, those kinds of things
you'll see the shape designs and the shape means something about the
characters grow through emotions.
The colors mean something.
The whole world is in an authentic support to the character.
That's mythologizing things, that's as an artist, making the world makes sense and
giving a certain meaning to the world.
So if we look at, say a Rembrandt, he's mythologizing, everything we
can talk about with what we think the meaning is, but the fact is
everything that is in a Rembrandt painting has a certain feel to it.
It has a glorious light, that glorious fantastic light.
And in his case, he's a Calvinist.
So it's this religious light.
It's the enlightenment of God coming down and shining down and illuminating
the corrupt flesh of the world.
It's a mythology he's creating.
It's a strategy actually, as we'll talk about in a second.
You look at John Singer Sargent.
He mythologized the world.
These people are captains of industry, they're Kings and
Queens of the common world.
They rise above, they're more elegant, more beautiful, more perfectly attuned.
Everything in the background in the world is supportive of their
much deserves station in life.
Norman Rockwell is mythologizing America showing us the way the American
pick you up by your bootstraps industry and love of family and good food is
fighting for the right ideals, all that kind of a cliche idea are in those
paintings supporting that mythology.
And we can go on through Tolkein, the Lord of the Rings.
He actually wanted to create a mythology for great Britain.
They didn't have it like some of the other societies like Germany did
and some of the other places that most of Europe, they didn't have.
All those places had these great mythologies.
He wanted to give the Brits some.
And so they were working on that place.
And that's why I kept going through those little exercises.
We do the thumbnail and I'd say, well, we're invited into this
wonderful world to finally rest at the Little House on the Prairie.
And I do a little storyline there.
I'm looking for a way to take these visual ideas and give them a mythology
and my way of mythologizing won't be
and shouldn't be your way.
You'll find your own way.
You know, maybe you'd take this long journey and find out you can't come.
The door is locked.
The windows are shuttered, whatever it is, we find this sense of truth.
I said, there's two myths.
The wasteland myth, the fear that the world is crumbling around
you, and you'll never fit in because there'll be nothing left.
And that makes a lot of sense.
When you think about having to go through two world wars as
these artists did at the time
and that the best you can get is little pieces of the whole, you'll
never find a whole supportive system.
The world will never come together and be eaten again.
It's really the opposite of the garden.
The garden is where you were perfectly supported by the world at large.
And the wasteland is the opposite of that.
It's the fall basically.
That's one key metaphor for where we;re at now.
Another one is, and this is a parent in most of the writings, the poetry, the
novels, the films, and the artwork of the fine artists of the contemporary artists
of the 20th century and even at the 21st, that's a constant drum beat and a very
conscious one, one that's less conscious,
less known is the trickster myth.
And there's lots of textures throughout myths and legends and
every society, they all have them.
We'll talk about Loki's, he's one of the best to look at and we'll do this briefly.
And he happens to be out in the movies nowadays, the God of michief.
The trickster is the unbridled.
Finally, the uncontrollable
force or forces of nature.
It's really what it is.
And it comes through as a personality.
And if you try and hold the trickster down, He or she
is gonna bust loose on you.
And so when we look at Loki, Thor, Loki, Odin, in fact, there's a lot
of scholarship that says that Loki is actually just the other side of Odin,
Odin's the all father who's constantly trying to save the world, planning for
Ragnarok, learning everything he can through magic and lore, sacrificing
himself to himself, dying and being born again in a different way than the
Christian ideal to find those secret
magic that will let him control and save the world.
Loki is his half son, but the etymology or the roots back behind
suggests that he's just the dark aspect of, but in either case.
Loki had a lot of fun stories you can read about.
Generally, what would happen in the early stories is he'd do something stupid.
He'd just have to try something and he'd screw up somehow and then he'd fix it.
And so he, at one time lost the apples o Iduna, I think her name is, but anyway,
the goddess who had the apples that were the immortal apples of life, the gods
had to eat the apples to not to grow old.
He lost the woman to a giant, and then he had to go find her back and quite
often in what would happen he lost Thor's hammer than had to get it back.
And so each time he did some antic, did some prank, he'd get the gods in trouble.
All of society would be in trouble and then he'd have to be the one to fix it.
He was the smartest guy in the room.
And so you screwed it up you got to fix it.
Oftentimes when he fixed it, good things would happen.
The fact that they got into a mess and then had to scramble to save
themselves, ended up putting them in a better position than they were before.
They beat some of the giant enemies that were going to attack them.
Or they found out about the world serpent and could prepare for it, or Odin got
his eight legged horse because of it.
But as the story went on, they tried to control Loki more and more and more.
And every time they put reins on him, they tried to keep society safe he'd
become more explosive and more evil, basically in terms of the mores of the
society and kind of the final straw was
Balder was the most beautiful, the best God.
He was the most courageous, the most noble.
He was what a God should be in that society.
He was the best at everything.
He was the perfect bean and so Freya, the mother of the gods basically said I want
to protect him, make sure he's not hurt.
So I'm going to make sure everybody in the world and he did it cause
Baldor had dreams of dying.
So he said, well, I want to protect him.
He's the best of us.
We should be able to do that.
She asked every creature, every being, rocks, plants everything to
promise, not to ever hurt Boulder.
The gods after that had a big party and started throwing stones and shooting
arrows at him, nothing could hurt him
cause every material in the universe promised not to hurt him.
Loki heard of that.
And Loki's thinking you've tried to completely order the universe.
I'm the God of chaos, of mischief.
I don't like that.
He got very angry and he found out that only mistletoe had
promise never to hurt Baldor.
So he fashioned a spear out of mistletoe and got a blind God to
throw it and it killed Balder.
And then to make things worse, he made sure he stayed dead in a little
side note that doesn't matter.
But he killed the best of the gods, the symbol of perfect order in the
society because on some deep level, if you completely try and control society
and not make it messy, that society is going to die in the long run,
it's going to atrophy and fall apart.
And he was the God of creativity basically.
And when you're creative, you try a lot of things that don't work
and you do things that a lot of times end up being destructive.
But in the long run, you hope that you get more creative acts and destructive
acts, but it's, it's testing the waters and pushing the boundaries and evolving.
the Norse gods were trying not to evolve.
They want to keep things orderly.
And so by doing that, he tried to kill order.
They tried to crush chaos, and it was the end of the universe, Ragnarok basically.
That's a great metaphor for artists.
You've got to find that balance.
We need some order.
We need some chaos, but we need a little bit of danger in our life and
danger in our craft to try things out.
If you can find safe ways to do it, sometimes you just throw
paint and see what happens.
And in either case.
That creative energy
can do great things for people.
So what we want to do then is we want to try and find our own mythology
and what that's going to mean is we want to find a meaning in our work.
Start looking at your own life.
Where do you spend your time that's not killing time on a
video game, but necessarily, but finding time that's meaningful.
Do you like to go to the beach?
Do you like to do this?
Do you - What do you like to read?
What kind of movies do you like to do?
What kind of people are you around?
What really gets you mad?
Or can really make you shed a tear?
Look for those areas that mean something to you or the things, you
know, best and then get creative.
And the best way to get creative is.
Not to come up with something completely original because
it's probably going to be lousy.
Probably somebody else thought of and said, nah, that's no good.
Not do exactly the same old thing that people have been doing for hundreds
and hundreds of years, just following the same old craftsmanship, the
atelier in the worst sense of the word, doing the same thing as dead art, but
used your skills, but put together.
Two things and it shouldn't necessarily go together.
And in movies, we call at the high concept.
I've talked about this before.
And you say, well, there's been alien invasions forever and
literature, pulp literature.
And there's been big game hunting since there has been man.
What if we put them together?
That's the predator series or what if we have a haunted house but instead of
having a ghost, it's an alien on a ship.
The monster is on a ship.
And so you're in a confined place and the monster is trying to get you and it's a
monster from another world that's going to destroy your world, or let's take that
haunted house idea where you're stuck in an enclosed space and you can't get away
from the opponent but rather than making it a monster, make it into an action film.
That's the Diehard franchise, or let's takethe idea of Norse
or Roman gods with godlike power and put them in everyday society.
That's a superhero Superman.
Batman, the flash, their gods walking among men.
What would happen if an ordinary person through an accident of radiation
became the strongest thing in creation, but couldn't control his emotions,
the Hulk, those kinds of things.
So you take a couple ideas that mean something to you, but nobody
else thought to put together.
What if we send a boy to British boarding school, but have it a
school of magic rather than just a regular school of learning.
Those kinds of things it's the easiest way to be creative.
You're just mixing and matching.
So like the little block games where you can put words together at random
and it comes up with some means.
Or you just do this in a book and touch a couple of paragraphs and put them
together words that kind of that's the most efficient way to be creative.
It creates great originality oftentimes, but without having to come
up with something that's never, ever been done in any way in the world,
putting together the things that nobody else thought of most great.
Company ideas, apple and Microsoft and things like that started with this idea.
What if everybody, not just big companies and military could have a computer.
What if that computer was aesthetically beautiful and user-friendly.
Those kinds of things.
Think of a couple things, put them together.
So now let me show you the strategies involved
What storytelling does, their strategy - there's lots of strategies, but the most
successful strategy is to use genres.
A genre, like a love story, a detective story, a mythological journey.
Those kinds of things of malt horror, film, what a Shaun or really is.
Is a strategy
It's a successful way to live your life.
So a love story would say that if you can just find the one person in the
world that you're meant to be together with, you all have a good life.
Detective story says, if you can.
Navigate through a corrupt world and always seek the truth
despite your flaws, you can have a good life.
A horror film says that eventually the past or a society or the forces at large
will hunt you down and destroy you.
So a mythological journey says that if you're born in a special way, you
can leave your society and find a way to come back and save the society
with some secret knowledge or power.
Each of these story forms has been developed over a long period of time.
And then there, as I said, strategies for living a life and that's
exactly why they're so powerful.
Because everybody needs those lessons, how to live a life,
everybody, every once in a while, your life's going to be a horror show.
Every once in a while the stars align and you find that perfect love.
It might just be the book you've been looking for to, to read, you know, the
perfect book or something, but hopefully it's the perfect soulmate, you know?
And so all of our lives are detective stories where we make good and bad
decisions and navigate through the world that creates barriers for us.
And we find that secret truth or hope to find it passing through.
And so audiences love these things.
The superhero fantasy is another genre now.
These things are wildly successful because they're showing, they're giving the
world, giving the audience some meaning.
If you love action, it just means you're not going to take it.
You're not going to depend on the authorities to do it.
You're going to go out and fight the good fight and do it yourself.
It's a great way to feel empowered.
Now, the problem with the genres as they're cliche.
You know, the one true love and the you know, he's going to beat up
several more guys, have machine guns.
And all he has is a paperclip becomes silly and cliches.
And so the genres become revitalized when we can twist expectations,
as we talked about before.
So that man, a taking that portrait genre or the Madonna and child genre.
And slightly tweaking it left or right.
Playing off the expectations and bringing a little bit of surprise
or a lot of surprise in it.
And so what we want to do then is use that same kind of dramatic
And so as you start building your artwork now, building that picture,
composing, try and get some point of view into the work, some angle in, and
then you're going to make sure that every visual component is going to support,
show affinity to that idea or be a nice foil against that idea.
So the one man who plays straight, lives in this dark
and stormy and tumultuous world.
And so maybe this will be the tonal composition and the kind of energy
shape that will be in that world.
If we have a, a dramatic theme or a dramatic idea, if there's
a subtext to what we're doing i'ts going to be more powerful.
And so in writing again.
We have, as I mentioned before, we have a father who has a
wedding day for his only daughter.
And we go through that wedding and we see the father is not out there.
He keeps saying, oh, I got to get out and see my daughter, but he
never does until the very end of the scene, but he's dealing death.
I'll beat these guys up for you.
I'll kill that guy for you.
You can pay me money so I don't terrorize you anymore.
And outside his own son and he's shown up is sneaking off from his wife and
having dalliances with the wedding party guests and the other son who's
the good son shows up late cause he doesn't really want to be with his
family and kinda disparages his family and say, I'm not, I'm not like them.
And so everybody in that family is proving how they're disrespecting and slowly
destroying the fabric of that family.
So that, that movie The Godfather is not a gangster movie.
It's a family drama, the advertisement and the parent idea is we've got
gangsters fighting gangsters and one set of gangsters is a little better
than the other side of gangsters,
so we root for them.
But the real theme, the subtext underneath is everybody in that movie does what
they think is best for the family and ends up destroying the family.
So the underlying idea is - the underlying subtext is the destruction
of family, the loss of family.
That's why that movie is so powerful.
There's lots of gangster films with that was the one that did best, had the most
meaning in it, because there was a reason under the surface that the film makers had
every choice, made every choice that they did they took the genre and flipped it.
And how they did it is they took gangster movies had been around since
Hollywood had been around basically
and they took the family drama.
And they did that oil and water mashup.
Family drama is Leave it to Beaver, gangster is Scarface shooting up the town.
How the heck you put those together?
They did it.
You shoot up the town to save the family and by doing that,
you've destroyed the family.
There's that wasteland motif.
That's what we hope to have in our work.
So now we're going to go do another cycle.
And we're going to look now at the compositions a little bit more
sophisticated compositions, and we're going to see how the subtext
or the underlying theme, or just some new visual tricks kick in to
put a twist on our expectations, of the audience expectations.
But what I want, I hope for you is that you will find, you'll start
thinking about why you're doing art.
Why would you spend a lot of money in a whole weekend talking about this stuff.
Why - what's it really mean for you and what are the things in your life,
the two or three things, the four or five things that you can do mashups
with, that you can bring together.
How can we bring two things together and make them work?
And I'll talk a little bit about one of my paintings when we do that and tell
you some of my thoughts at this point, how I've been solving that problem.
Transcription not available.
Reference Images (5)
Free to try
1. Course Alert24sNow playing...
1. Critiques of Submitted Student Work31m 43sNow playing...
1. Learning Recommendation24sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. The Parts vs The Whole22m 51s
3. Understanding the Metaphor14m 22s
4. Finding the Meaning in Your Art21m 12s