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The Artist as Storyteller

By Michael Divine on January 31st, 2018

To be an artist is to be a storyteller. Artists are, in one form or another, telling a story with their creations. Even the artist who vehemently denies any story at all – I’m just making art for art’s sake! – is still a story teller since that, too, is just another story.

The purpose of the storyteller in our world has always been, I think, to reflect back to us some aspect of our humanity so that we can better understand ourselves. We tell each other stories of grief, joy, pain, heartache, and connection. Perhaps the sharing of these experiences is comforting. Reading the journeys of others, seeing the visual expression of another’s personal journey helps us feel less alone. Or, perhaps, it jars us towards a solution in our own lives to issues we ourselves face.

I think about these things as I create. What’s the story behind a line or a curve. How is it feeling? What’s it doing there, really? What’s it saying or singing or screaming? It’s not necessarily part of some complex narrative. It’s not like eveyr moment is so richly symbolic that the barest line has a novel attached to it. Maybe it’s just deflecting the momentum of another line or it’s breaking a shade of blue like a sudden pause in the visual flow. The line is always just a line but it’s a line in relationship to all the other lines and gradients on the canvas and, at that, it’s in relationship to the driving momentum of the piece as a whole.

For me, the main thrust of any story I build a painting upon is the emotional impact. I do my best to cut out the wordiness of my own personal story of what might symbolize what and instead work with the gut feeling of the piece. How that connects with where I’m at and what I’m doing or seeing in the world is what I want to draw from. That viscerality and the archetypal narrative that it’s joined with is at the heart of all our human experiences and it’s from that place, I think, that we often find our most honest expressions.

Sometimes though, I want to put down the brush and the painterliness and the seriousness of my work and play elsewhere. Which brings us to last week when I was planning to show some art at the Edwardian Ball in San Francisco. Violet suggested I make some drawings special for the event that fit with the Edwardian/Steampunk motif of the evening.

Here is where my own personal storyteller comes to the forefront and I can give it an extra bit of space to go ahead and make a story up. How about a hot air balloon over a raging ocean? Maybe a lady at a bar inside a dirigible saying “Charmed, I’m sure” to someone off-paper. In each of these drawings I wanted to create a little visual vignette of a story. What is the movement? Where are they going? What are they doing when the abstract becomes form? And what does it feel like at that moment?

These too are a part of my story as an artist. Enjoy.
 

“Compass Rose” (Pen/Ink – 10″ x 8″)


 
A Sleight Fix

“A Sleight Fix” (Pen/Ink – 10″ x 8″)


 

“The Real We Invented” (Pen/Ink – 10″ x 8″)


 

“The Life We Lead” (10″ x 8″ – Pen/Ink)


 

“Charmed, I’m Sure” (Pen/Ink – 10″ x 8″)


 

“Keep Moving Forwards” (Pen/Ink – 10″ x 8″)

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