A cool, dark theater on a hot day—aahhh. This past weekend I was fortunate enough to watch a marvelous Shakespearean actor/director conduct a master class in delivering Shakespeare’s lines, aiding the actor in determining what the hell the man was really intending to say. (Artistic intent)
Most of the three-and-a-half hours was spent discussing why Shakespeare structured his words, phrases and punctuation the way that he did and what that meant to the text as a whole. (Composition) That led to how important it is for the actor to understand how to respond to those internal cues in order to communicate the idea. Art is spawned by internal cues– “emotion” and by ideas, whether overt or not.
What struck me most was how an actor is expected to explore and speak each word, even each syllable, as if the thought is giving rise at that moment. Imagine what that must mean. You commit the lines to memory and you may even speak them for dozens of performances, but in order for them to resonate for the audience every time, you must continue to discover while you say them again and again. How fresh, how connected, how present a good actor must be. It’s not like she doesn’t know what happens next, but she must discover the lines anew each time she says them, just like an artist must find each element anew regardless of where it comes from or how often it’s been used.
Shakespeare as playwright was a “creator”, the actor is an interpreter. The visual artist is generally both. You imagine, invent, and/or respond. Emotion is crystalized into form. Your job is simply to keep the impetus alive remaining sensitive to the prompts.
As you approach the paper, board or canvas, have a vision, an idea and intent, but stay present like the actor, discovering with each mark, each color choice and each placement. Authenticity and resonance will arise. Be willing to follow an urge even if the likelihood it will turn out is slim. BUT—and here’s the rub (sorry, couldn’t help myself)—refrain from immediate judgment. Know that whatever you put down is not necessarily good or bad, it’s simply another element that will need reaction, response, balance, integration, etc. It’s a dialogue. Keep engaged in it, regardless of your skill set. Skill WILL come, if you can refrain from judgment long enough to continue the discourse.
Source material always helps to bring me back around when I feel lost. “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”— Jean-Luc Godard Perhaps it’s seeing the source material in a new way that works—upside down, inside or/and backwards. Rearrange.
Collage–the art of reinterpreting is a saving grace as skill is developing– “Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The ‘newness’ in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components.”—Carl Jung Collage by its very nature facilitates “newness”. It’s a recombining of that which speaks to us. Look for your cue in everything and speak it “..trippingly on the tongue” (I know, I know–sorry).
For those who missed last week here is a link to a wonderful video about collage artist, Eunice Parsons: http://watch.opb.org/video/2292085198/