"The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” - Francis Bacon
Happy Friday All! I wanted to talk a bit today on Symbolism, Meaning, and Do We Need It at All. And so I did!
To recap some thoughts on meaning and symbolism:
- There is a great and wide range of "meaning" in art making. Some art has deep meaning attached to every single element, image, color and mark. Other art is purely intuitive and abstract in meaning. When we step into our own art making with this knowledge, we have the ability to pull from both sides. I like thinking of it as this: "Meaning" can give a piece its bones, the deep roots, the grounding of knowledge and intention. "Pure Intuition" can give a piece its air, the freshness of forward exploration and the permission to play. Neither is better or more worthy than the other; they are simply concepts for us to engage, to try on, to see how they fit on our skin.
- When we actively work with symbolism in our art, we create layers of meaning. I find it helpful to think in terms of symbols when I want to express a large concept without needing to explain it in great detail - to allow one visual element to stand in for a more complex thought. These can go deep, full of historical meaning, universally recognizable, or they can be utterly simple, light and invented just for us. It can be something as easy as "yellow means happy" or as far reaching as "a feather means connection with the higher spiritual realm."
- The most important thing to remember in this is that symbolism is merely a tool in our artistic tool box - we can use it as we need, we can change it's purpose at any moment (like that moment when a butter knife suddenly becomes a screwdriver), or we can leave it to the side if it does not serve the current pieces we're working on (like that moment you spread butter with your fingers). When we develop symbols, they become a part of our visual vocabulary - much like the map key - and because they are just part of our tools, we have full agency to invent and shift anytime we need. Remember! This is your art, your vision, your creation; you have FULL artistic liberty to use your tools any way at any time!
- While I spoke primarily in this video on using Symbols (think marks, shapes, specific images, colors), there is no end to the number of visual elements we can use to represent the concepts and meanings we want to express. But a great way to begin exploring what symbols we already have is to look back at our individual inspiration explorations. So many of our big inspirations are rather without a nice, concise picture to explain them, but as we dissect our associations and study them, we can often find symbols that will stand in as representatives.
Week 3 Home[play]:
I'd like you to spend some time with your sketchbooks continuing to expand on your inspiration explorations from the past two weeks. However, this time as you look back at your lists and ideas, really begin looking through them for the various visual elements that can stand in as symbols - especially those inspirations that did not have tidy images already attached. If you had something like "walking in full moonlight" on your list of inspirations, perhaps start asking how you can symbolize the walk (does it look like your toes, a foot print, a dotted trail line, a broad stroke of blue, etc), or how you can symbolize that full moonlight (the shape of the moon, the phases, radiating light patterns, a milky yellow or blue color, or a glittering hunk of moonstone). Remember, not everything needs (or will ever even have) a symbolism! This is merely one more way to compile information and inspiration, one more way to authentically tell the story of your hands Start adding these to your sketchbook as potential ways to develop your art!
If you are in the FaceBook group and would like to share your thoughts on symbolism and ideas for using it in your work, we'd all love to dialogue!
See you next week ladies!