Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Does Your Art Say What You Want It To?

Seal here:

This past weekend, I went to see the "King's Speech" with a friend. On the surface, it is a film about a would-be King who struggles to overcome his speech impediment in order for his country to trust him as a "sound" leader. As an visual and performing artist, the "quality of your voice" becomes the deciding factor in being able to deliver your intentions; the pictures in your head needs to be communicated clearly to the public in order to be received and understood.

When you draw and paint, do you strike the canvas boldly? Do you layer the watercolor softly? Do you ink your comic with conviction? or fear? or dread? Does your canvas stutter? soothe? or shout? Or is it more like a quiet boldness? What is the quality of your voice in your art? What is the adjective of how you deliver your art?

When I was a theater director at UC Berkeley, I was exposed to the many different kinds of delivery. Anger in a play could be portrayed in so many different ways: in a bubbling explosion, in a seething whisper, in a self-destructive combustion, in a look, in a glare, in the small corner of the mouth. It was very fascinating that the voice and actor's body had so much range. It was a given that in order to stretch that range and broaden their ability to deliver all kinds of sounds, emotions, and gestures, the actors needed to rehearse their voices and their bodies: they did exercises to stretch their vocal chords, they enlarged and snapped their diaphragms, they expanded and contracted their bodies into different shapes and sizes.

So too, must we, the visual artists: the painter, the writer, the crafts-maker, practice our quality of voice by practicing and stretching our capacity. We must 1) expand our skills in our chosen subject, medium, and the way we see the world. We must also 2) contract and filter what it is we eventually want to say, so that the final delivery of our art is done with intention, some element of surprising impulse, but always with a heart-full conviction.

All great art is a visual form of [song].

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