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the soul in art

published: 2014-01-27

These past few days, I’ve been watching an artist create a painting from scratch. She started with broad strokes. Bold and grand, she approached the canvas as if she were fencing. Sometimes correcting an area on the canvas with a big, wet, sponge. Within only a few such strokes she had captured the language of her model’s body, set the tone, the mood, the emotion. A soft grey calm. A quiet moment of reflection. It was him, already, unmistakably. The model, my son.
In the next days, she seemed to slowly enter the painting, getting closer and closer each hour. She wasn’t filling in, she was layering. More intimate each session. Her focus eventually was an eye, or a shadow in the sweater, a finger and the way it was bent.
It was a learning experience for me, a reminder perhaps: to capture the tone first, the emotion, in broad strokes. To be bold. And to then start layering words into paragraphs, into sentences, single phrases. If you do it the other way around, there’s a danger you focus only on detail and then lose the soul.

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