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View Full Version : The Narrative, Writing vs. Art



Gale Haut
08-02-2012, 04:46 AM
I've thought about this a lot since I started working in graphics professionally, but I'm curious what others think.

Arguably a picture can tell a story as effectively as an actual story tells itself. For both the artist and the writer a narrative can be established by focusing on different types of details.

But what do you consider to be the differences between the visual narrative and the written narrative? How would you approach them differently?

Rhubix
08-02-2012, 07:28 AM
I found this question a bit hard to answer. It's not really something I've ever considered.

As an animator, I focus on a single action, a reaction, or the flow between them. There are certainly illustrators that can pour all kinds of narrative into a single image, but that's not really my forte.

Writing, I feel like I'm zoomed out. I can move around the setting, the narrative, even inside the characters heads.
When I draw I'm zoomed right in to the 1/24th of a second of that character's life. I'm concerned with expression, balance, and physics. I don't design settings as much as I work with characters, but when I do it's in a very functional way.

I suppose I give myself a lot of slack when I write. I let myself get fantastical and often go on a tangents. It's not unusual for me to write a chapter or three that I never intend to keep, just to see where my characters want to take me. In a lot of ways it's my more creative form of expression.

Drawing is far more demanding of me. I spend considerable time working on my fundamental skill. I'm not satisfied with something that is artsy, or romantic - I need it to be technically proficient as well. I'm a bit of a structure snob. :D That's surely how I ended up an animator. Not many free spirited artsy types enjoy having themselves restricted right down to their line thickness.

Did that even answer the question? I don't even know. :D Art to me is a captured moment, writing is lots of consecutive moments, and animation is their fantastic baby.

Locke
08-02-2012, 09:21 AM
I'm not really a drawing person. I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler, but have always thought that I might be able to turn out something decent if I learned the craft. But I'm always tripping over new things to learn and don't want to see how deep that rabbit hole is. From watching my wife, I at least know it's expensive.

But what I do know is that I think the real difference lies in abstractions. In visual arts, there's only so many ways you can portray an abstract idea, and it's usually put up for so much interpretation that the actual core of the idea gets lost. But in a landscape of words (how's that for an abstraction), you can wax poetic for days and keep the focus on your subject.

But, then again, I was once asked while I was still in school to explain the existentialism behind Ogden Nash, so the overanalysis exists there as well. I don't know, but it feels different when exploring an abstract written concept and an abstract work of visual art. It's difficult to quantify.

Gale Haut
08-02-2012, 10:37 AM
I suppose I give myself a lot of slack when I write. I let myself get fantastical and often go on a tangents. It's not unusual for me to write a chapter or three that I never intend to keep, just to see where my characters want to take me. In a lot of ways it's my more creative form of expression.


I find myself in the opposite position because it feels like my art is appreciated if I go on tangents and continue to add depth to an image, but when I write in a similar way people don't respond well to excessive detail because it comes across as burdensome rather than as attention to detail.

I'm sorry if I wasn't making sense in the OP. In my mind the narrative I'm trying to get at is essentially the artist and viewer or author and reader relationship, and the differences in how to effectively communicate to your audience. Does that make sense?



But what I do know is that I think the real difference lies in abstractions. In visual arts, there's only so many ways you can portray an abstract idea, and it's usually put up for so much interpretation that the actual core of the idea gets lost. But in a landscape of words (how's that for an abstraction), you can wax poetic for days and keep the focus on your subject.

But, then again, I was once asked while I was still in school to explain the existentialism behind Ogden Nash, so the overanalysis exists there as well. I don't know, but it feels different when exploring an abstract written concept and an abstract work of visual art. It's difficult to quantify.

It is that.

Would you have an opinion on whether good art tends to be more suggestive than good writing or vice versa? Or to put it another way... Which form of expression should leave more to the imagination in order to be successful?

MoLoLu
08-02-2012, 02:46 PM
I've had some talks about this with a friend of mine who works in the 3d animation & art industry (not certain what the correct term is). To set this up a little, I can sketch, 3d model and do very basic visual-artsy things but I'm not a visual art person. My forte is constructing and telling stories. My friend, on the other hand, is a talented (can't quantify if very talented is justifiable) artist and animator. But, to be blunt, he doesn't tell very good stories.

Our skill sets complement each other very well for discussing ideas and coming up with concepts. But we're stuck at what we're good at. I can't create impressive pictures. He can't tell a story. We learned that the hard way.

What I discovered is this:

I'm not attentive enough to detail. I want a 'whole', where every piece of artwork integrates into a broader 'story'. To do this, I'll often leave out detail in individual images or force a style on the image which ruins the expression. This ultimately fails because I lose all the expression I could have had in the individual scenes. And the viewer can't fill in the blanks. He expects it to be shown upfront. On the flipside, when I focus on an individual image, I end up with an acceptable result but only as a single image. It won't integrate into anything larger and can only tell a small part of the whole story I wanted it to tell.

My friend, on the other hand, works with expressive scenes, lighting, color, what have you, which paint a mood and an image designed to stick with you. He's great in doing that but his attempts at telling stories (either in artwork or in words) don't do very well. To me, they feel disjointed, individual scenes thought out to the last detail but with only the most basic common denominator or, in other words, story arc. The same goes for his characters. They feel rounded with backstory and often very unique traits but those are seldom portrayed in a way which makes you feel like they're actually a person.

I've no doubt the two parts of expression can be combined, as stories can be told with images. The issue I see is that the two methods of expression require vastly different skillsets. There are most definitely people who can manage to merge visuals and writing - but I'd guess that's a completely different skill set yet again.

So, which one is more expressive? I don't know. If you can only use one or another (e.g. single pictures vs. short story), it depends on what you're trying to say and what audience you're trying to reach. If you can mesh both into the same work (e.g. comic, movie), I think you have to bring both halves together to make the larger product work. But you'll still be left with the fundamental problem that images can't tell every story, just like words can't set every scene or describe every action down to the last detail.

Rhubix
08-02-2012, 05:39 PM
I find myself in the opposite position because it feels like my art is appreciated if I go on tangents and continue to add depth to an image, but when I write in a similar way people don't respond well to excessive detail because it comes across as burdensome rather than as attention to detail.

I'm sorry if I wasn't making sense in the OP. In my mind the narrative I'm trying to get at is essentially the artist and viewer or author and reader relationship, and the differences in how to effectively communicate to your audience. Does that make sense?



I'm a very left brained person. (narrow minded comment ahead)I don't like abstract art, I consider it an excuse to avoid learning the fundamental skills required to create representational art.
Personally, fundamental skills are the most critical part of both writing, and visual arts.

Detail is the least important part of an image. Often, novice artists use detail to hide underlying structural problems in perspective and anatomy. When I hear 'depth' I think, perspective, size, overlap, saturation, things that give the illusion of physical space.
Even mood is considered on a very functional level. Line thickness and shape, colours, contrast, perspective, gesture.
Over time these fundamentals become automated, but it's always obvious when an artist hasn't taken the time to understand them.
Someone who has a natural understanding of these things, I would consider 'gifted' or 'talented'. For the rest of us, who have to read and practice, and study, I consider us skilled.
I cringe when ever someone tells me I'm talented - like god or a fairy waved a wand and that's why I can draw well.

I imagine writing is similar. A poor foundation in plot, grammar, and the big rules in writing, will result in lots of unnecessary descriptions, explanations, and clunky sentences. (my writing) Where as, a person who takes the time to learn the craft, study, and do all the pushups to turn fundamentals into a part of their subconscious makes it look easy, but it's actually built on a hard earned foundation.


Having the fundies tucked away in the back of your mind gives the freedom to spend your creative time worried about the creative bits, the details and flourishes, instead of trying to figure out how to make the hand look like a hand, or worry if your sentence is actually a sentence.

Locke
08-03-2012, 08:09 AM
Would you have an opinion on whether good art tends to be more suggestive than good writing or vice versa? Or to put it another way... Which form of expression should leave more to the imagination in order to be successful?

Stop it, you're giving me brain cramps.

After thinking about it for a while and ingesting an alarming amount of various headache medicines, I think visual arts have an edge here, but only on the merits of Dadaism and Surrealism alone. Besides, there's always someone in the 1% that wants a painting on their wall as a conversation piece, and a book doesn't serve that purpose nearly as well. But I can offer an argument that might cut into that a bit.

It's not which form of art is apt for more descriptive storytelling, but the artist. This is true beyond the scope of visual arts and writing; it has implications among all art forms, hence it carries more truth for me. I can be just as moved by an Incubus song (no, really, don't laugh, listen) as I can a Maya Angelou poem or a Dali painting. What any person values more as art has nothing to do with what form it takes. It's how the art makes people feel which is the key. Even in writing, part of the art is to convey something beyond words, because no word by itself can drive emotion. It takes careful and conscious craft to accomplish that.

Judge any art by your peceptions of the art, not by the form it's given.

Also, don't judge me by my innate love for italics and semicolons. Now, if you'll excuse me for a moment, I need to find another liver.