Tuesday, May 06, 2008

on composition

The power is within — the question is how to reach it and use it.

Increase of power always comes with exercise. If one uses a little of his appreciative faculty in simple ways, proceeding on gradually to the more difficult problems, he is in the line of natural growth.

Arthur Dow in Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers. Originally published in 1920.

I picked up Arthur Dow's book a couple weeks back at the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. I heard about it a few days before that in Las Vegas where the Bellagio was running a sweet, small and prohibitively expensive exhibit (Vegas, Baby) featuring American Modern Masters, including O'Keefe.

In the short video that ran in a room alongside the exhibit I learned that O'Keefe almost gave up painting because her education at the Chicago Art Institute focused on rote repetition, and she grew tired of copying naturalistic masterworks.

Then she read Dow's teaching on Line, Notan, Color and Composition and everything changed. Abstraction was hers.

I'm fascinated by stories like this. Something similar, I'm told, happened to Jack London after he read Herbert Spencer's Philosophy of Style. Both artists found something they needed that was vital for their practice, vital for their motivation, vital for driving them to get it done -- in the pages of a book.

Maybe it was as simple as this: They found their teacher. And it was time.


bill said...

Touched, profoundly touched, thank you.

anniemcq said...

What an inspirational story. Love it.

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