The Facebook conversation started when the excellent Sheena Fraser McGoogan-Artist posted “Small Pear Tree in Blossom,” April 1888 from the Van Gogh Museum. See it here – #ArtOfTheWeek or here http://bit.ly/Pear-Tree
Van Gogh Museum said: #VanGogh was a great admirer of Japanese printmaking, which is reflected in the composition of this work: the small tree in the foreground, the high viewpoint and the lack of depth.
I responded to the museum’s comment, saying, Phrases like ‘high viewpoint’ and ‘lack of depth’ are useful, and Sheena asked, Can you explain?
So when I got home very late from a practice with a new concert band I was checking out, still too alert for sleep after the long drive, I wrote what might have been better as a blog entry than as a Facebook chat, ha:
The phrases are short and instructive and clarify what a person may intuitively sense but not have any idea how to articulate. If we can’t articulate what we sense, we can’t really develop our understanding very far. Educating viewers about how to look at a piece, giving us something concrete to look for, gives us useful tools, much like learning music theory helps people grasp the structure that underlies the sounds of music. Spelling out how to look at a piece helps us see into it, and creates a practical bridge to take viewers from “I know what I like” to understanding more about why something is appealing or not.
And then because enough is never enough, I said, Take my Johnny jump-up, for example. It’s my current tiny FB profile pic, which of course shows up first at a normal size.
Gardeners will like it because we like anything that grows and no matter how incredibly short and easy the winter has been, it’s been too long.
Photographers – and presumably artists – will blow it up bigger. They’ll unconsciously check off basic rules of analysis. They’ll look first at the focus – how the crispness of the petals against the fuzzy background makes the petals leap off the screen and hover above the foliage. That perception is also fueled by the lines of direction, the glimpse of the stems and shadows. They’ll see how the sunlight bursts out through the yellow throat and filters up through the two purples of the petals, rather than attributing the light to an external source the way a scientist would.
Photogs and artists will understand that today was extremely windy by the movement of the tiny plant because it’s off-centre above the foliage and soil, and they’ll feel the strength of the plant by its survival and the location of the blossom in one of the crosshairs of the nine-part grid.
Or maybe they won’t know what they’re looking at, but if they do, they will understand just a little bit better how and why we create, each of us being a wee bit of the Creator.