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February 23, 2003

Non-visual I

I'm sulking at the moment.

For ages now, I've been incredibly aware that I really *don't* have much of a clue when it comes to the visual arts. Oh, I know what I like, but I don't know why I like it. And I can't see why anyone else likes what they like. Give me a nice bit of Rothko, or a drop of conceptual art. Matisse - what's all the fuss about?

This didn't matter before I got into mainstream new media, because I never came across designers. And it didn't matter when I was in mainstream new media, because then I had designers to worry about that stuff for me. Papering over my cracks, nay chasms. But now I'm out on my own, and I know there's something I'm missing.

A friend back at the beeb once said that loads of people had been trained in how to paint, but schools didn't teach how to draw. How to physically represent something you can see. The craft/tool bit. Which, because it's not about expressing is far less glamourous, but should still be taught. She was in a room of artists at the time, so got a lot of stick for it, but I felt she was right. If I had been taught the basic skills of how to visually represent what I had in my head, the discipline of looking, and looking again, and making sure you know what you're going to do before you put pen to paper, and how to steer your hands, then I'd be a lot more capable of representing concepts to others. A lot.

So, I decided it was time to try and tackle this. To learn some of the principles of design, of composition, of what makes my pictures snaps, and my wife's photographs.

For the last few days I've been wandering around with a digital camera, taking photos of stuff that interests me, and then coming back to iPhoto to find out if any of what I'd intended actually came across.

And normally it didn't. Just because of really stupid stuff that I simply didn't know. Of things I don't even look for in real life. The rule of thirds, vanishing points, stuff like that. It's just so bloody obvious. And I sort of knew it all along, even if I didn't know I knew it.

When I was on the Robert McKee 'Story' course, I learnt that one of the most common mistakes of novice scriptwriters is to have dialogue where characters say what they mean. Thereby rendering it unactable. An actor will look at the words and try to work out what they should project from it, struggling because the words mean what they are.

My pictures are currently about themselves. You look at my pictures to find what you should be looking for, and there's nothing there. Because it's all slap bang in the centre - a diagram, not a picture.

I feel a fool. And, as graciously as my wife has explained this to me, I'm sulking about having to learn a new thing that was so simple.

Grownups, eh?

Posted by Tom Dolan at February 23, 2003 11:43 AM

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Is this the same basis as good novel-writing(`show not tell')?

Posted by: Nigel at February 23, 2003 12:38 PM

Well, 'show dont tell' is far more a film saying. Certainly in literary dialogue, you don't have characters saying what they think, but then you normally have text between that *does* explain after all. That's one of the strengths of books - they do interior monologue really well. Film is just rubbish at it.

I'm looking forward to even getting to the point where this becomes an issue in any drawings or photos I'm taking. Gallery coming soon, possibly.

Posted by: Blatant Optimism at February 23, 2003 11:18 PM

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