Sunday, March 11, 2007

Some Thougts About Art Composition: Using Words on Collages and ATCs

I have a pet peeve about some art that I see on artist trading cards and the use of words.

Don't state the obvious. That is the issue at the heart of the matter.

Stating the obvious can distract us or take something away from us by patronizing us. Or poor writing style can also be distracting or ruin your otherwise nice composition.

In the art and craft of writing we are advised to say it clearly and don't repeat. Don't use a ton of adjectives and adverbs if they are not necessary. Say what has to be said to convey the meaning. Just use words that convey the message and leave it at that. Don't "over-write".

In a similar vein, it bugs me when I see very nice looking artwork ruined (in my opinion) by extraneous words also appearing on the ATC.

Hey, this is my opinion. I am sorry if this hurts anyone’s feelings. That is not my intention. However I ask that you think about what you are doing and the art that you are making and perhaps question the addition of words.

Here are some examples:

A Paris themed ATC with lots of visual images that clearly convey Paris is the place pictured (i.e. Eiffel Tower) yet the word "Paris" is on it. It is one thing if this is very artsy and adds something visually to the composition (sometimes) but sometimes it is sloppily hand written and other times the writing is some how taking away from the same composition if the word were just absent.

A strong clear image of a dog with the word DOG on it. Or a cup of coffee that says COFFEE. Ditto for any other object or animal. If we can identify the image we don't need to see the word. We are not dummies.

Also if the ATC swap is a themed swap and the ATC is great but then the name of the swap is there, as if we could not figure it out on our own. For example is a St. Patrick's Day ATC not clear enough that a person adds the words "St. Patrick's Day"? If the image is of a Christmas tree do we need to be told it is a "Christmas" themed ATC? Or if the visual is about a movie you don't have to then write "My Favorite Movie Swap" on the front, or even the words "My Favorite Movie". Just keep the ATC the images and other words about that movie. Period. You can write the swap name on the back if you want. It is possible to enjoy the visual image about that movie and we don't need to know on the front that it happens to be YOUR favorite.

What I don't mean to include in this is alphabet cards, A is for Apple etc. where there is an image for the letter Aa and then they choose to write the word apple, that is different, and it is your choice and not bothersome to me if that kind of card says Aa Apple then has an image of an apple. While we don't NEED the word apple on there, if it appears there and it looks good (the writing is nice or even beautiful) then it is fine and adds something positive to the piece of artwork.

Consider letting your images do the talking. Only spell out for us what we are not able to understand from seeing the image.

Another exception to what I am talking about is if you are an excellent calligraphist and use artistic lettering to add a special component to the artwork. Calligraphy artists usually understand and know that their lettering is actually an art form in and of itself and usually the piece is composed in a way to maximize the use of the words and the visual beauty of those actual letters.

Conversely, poor handwriting can detract from the beauty of an otherwise great looking ATC. If you must write words on an ATC, consider using your computer's word processor and consider using the font size and the font style functions to change the text size and style so that it looks nice with the style of art that you are making.

If you use words on the ATC use them for when visuals don't tell the whole story, or when the words are part of the major part of telling what you are trying to represent.

For me composition is a thing I am trying to teach myself and I have a feeling it is difficult for some other people as well. Also for those of us who primarily use words to communicate we struggle to just let visual images do the talking. Consider letting go of the words, it sometimes improves your artwork.

Here is a good website with information and tips on the issue of composition in making art.

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