Discovering the Artist within me (Part II) – Classification.

Artists are classified. Period.

Ironically, periods are what classify artists, as do schools and styles. And if you apply paint on canvas, you’ll automatically be classified as a kind of artist, or your art shall be called a mix of styles.

In past several days, I  have had the opportunity of interacting with an amazing young woman. I draw and paint what I want, and having never set foot in an art school until recently, I’ve been both positively and negatively blessed. Positively because I still think the way I want to and I continue to question what I don’t understand, and negatively because the techniques of art are difficult to come by.

This young person is a vibrant combination of intellect and creativity, and her thoughts on art are mature beyond her years. My learning from her has led me reflect upon what My illustrations done for the purpose of exemplifying articles and news, and my caricature renditions of people for the purpose of satire and/or humor notwithstanding, I draw and paint:

  • My thoughts that often take the form of expressions, faces, mountains, animals of all ilk.
  • My memories that fluctuate between the light and dark but often get personified/morphed into my physical experiences.
  • Motion, speed, acceleration for everything around us is perpetually in motion.
  • Colors – washes, splashes, blobs…but all to bring out my thoughts in a visual format.

My young friend tells me that the artist within me may have surrealistic leanings. I do love Dali’s surrealist renderings, but I’m not sure if I would eventually paint like that. Dreams are different from thoughts – thoughts are anchored in logic; dreams break those anchors, allowing the thoughts to fly aimlessly, meeting other thoughts that they were never supposed to meet, and populating a landscape to give birth to surrealism. The elements of surprise, the realistic treatment of people, animals, and objects – they were the hallmarks of Dali’s paintings.

Oh, now that I’m reminded of Salvador Dali, I must show you the caricature that I did of him a few years ago. A simple pencil rendering, nothing much – but one day, I shall paint him the way he would’ve painted himself, surrealistically.

-artist-salvador-dali-mustaches-moustaches-surrealism-surrealist-caricature-of-dali.jpg

My take on Dali’s work has always been of wondrous respect.

Right now, I stand on a spiritual event horizon. If I cross over, I may not return; if I don’t, I won’t know what lies on the other side. But from the windows of time that rush past me at lightening speed, I’ve been able to catch a few glimpses and those glimpses must be translated into sketches…those sketches might get me my visa to the other side. I just hope that it’s a tourist visa and that it comes with a free return ticket.

 

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Why Symbolism can go where Realism can’t.

Let us begin by understanding the two terms.

Realism:

Realism, especially modern realism, which flourished at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and since then has fallen into a predictable rhythm, is about depicting a scene as-is, with almost photographic precision. There has been another school of art also called realism, which flourished in the medieval times, and which presented an idealized and beautified version of a picture.

Let me explain through an example. If you were to paint the scene of a bench in a park with a garbage bin in the vicinity – as a modern realist, you’d show the banana peel under the bench, and if perchance the garbage disposal squad hadn’t arrived by then and the bin was overflowing, you’d diligently paint the garbage too.  However, if you were attempting to replicate medieval realism (closer to romanticism,) your painting will have replaced the banana peel with a dandelion and the garbage bin with a statue of a voluptuous woman. In both cases, you’d have painted the proportions, the colors, the lights and shadows…and everything else very, very realistically.

So that was about realism. Now, let us talk about symbolism.

Symbolism:

Simply speaking, symbolism is the use of symbols in your imagery. For instance, if you want to show pain and agony along with the feeling of being trapped, you might use objects that relate to these feelings (so an artist may decide that the imagery of a barbed wire fence with a bloodied rag could convey the feeling,) or you might use a totally different representation to “show” the mental condition of such a person. How an artist wishes to symbolize a feeling, an idea, a thought, is for the artist to decide.

Do you see the difference?

Realism vs. Symbolism – The Difference

Realism is a faithful replication while Symbolism is the presentation of the artist’s interpretation. For this reason, odd and unrelated imagery may be found in a symbolist’s art. The artist would always have an interpretation for the artwork that he or she created, but as a person viewing the artwork, the audience must carry away their own interpretation of it. Just the way a writer explains a character’s personality, thought-process, plans, ideas, fears, expectations etc. all through the use of similes and metaphors, the artist uses the visual counterpart of these tools to establish a story within an artwork.

This is why Symbolism can go where realism can’t. Realism can present you with the faithful representation of the visual that the artist sees, but it cannot take you into the hearts and minds of people, it cannot tell you the story of a person, it cannot transfer feeling and emotion into the artwork. No amount of realistic imagery can tell you anything about the thoughts that crowd the mind of a woman who becomes a dacoit after being gang-raped; Nothing in the domain of realism can show you the mental strength and capability of a man fighting his own schizophrenic demons. To paint such pictures, you must step out of the comfort zone of realism.

Photographers – The New Realists

The photographers today do a better job at realistic depiction of visuals. Some photographs have the ability to evoke emotions so powerful that they move nations into action. And yet, a single photograph cannot take you on a visual odyssey into the world of feelings, thoughts, emotions, or even stories – because stories don’t happen at a point in time, they happen over time – and this is where the artist steps in and  takes you beyond the surface of the paint, into a world that begins to make sense…little by little.

Most artists start as realists. They faithfully paint what they see. Then they begin to feel the constraints and start exploring. Dali discovered Surrealism, Andy Warhol found Pop Art, and Picasso got Cubed. I don’t think that artists deliberate too much upon the path their art would eventually take – I think their art finds its own direction and then they just follow.

I think I’ve just finished writing the Dummy’s Guide to Realism vs. Symbolism 🙂 I am sure you’ve got it all. Now I must find my digital easel and get back to work. 

Caricature/Cartoon – Salvador Dali, The Surreal Surrealist & The Persistence of Memory!

The Caricature of Salvador Dali – The Surreal Caricaturist and A Psychologist Extraordinaire!

I cross my heart and speak the truth so help me Dali.

I didn’t draw this caricature, you did…I merely reproduced it.

A Caricature, Cartoon, Drawing, Portrait of Salvador Dali, the Spanish Surrealist with his mustaches (moustaches) and the characteristic mad look in his eyes!

Had you fooled, Didn't I? You see..."The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad!"

Dali is my Guru of the future. He is the artist whose footsteps I’d love to follow. He is the man who makes me understand the force that drives the loaded ones to part with their money. I like the man, and if someone would promise not to read this post, I’d venture further to say that I love him, mustaches and all.

Moving on to the serious stuff:

According to my first stop on the information highway also known as Wikipedia, Salvador Dali’s name was almost as complex as his personality. What do you say to “Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol”? I say, “Magnificent!”

Here’s his short biography.

Salvador Dali’s Biography – Short, Sweet, and Surreal

Salvador Dali was born in Catalonia, Spain. That Dali became a surrealist should come as no surprise to us as his parents made him believe that he was a reincarnation of his older brother, also called Salvador. No wonder he grew up with his realities mixed up. Anyway, the point is that his aberrations became clear from the very beginning as the reincarnated Salvador began to display artistic tendencies at a very tender age. Dali’s mom was keen on her son following his artistic instincts. Unfortunately in 1921, when Dali was just 17, she died.

Dali worked in Spain until 1935, when he moved to America. He later returned to Spain in 1949 and spent his remaining years there. It is said when Dali was in his late seventies, his Russian wife who was 10 years his senior had gone senile and she fed Dali something that made Dali lose his ability to paint. Still Dali loved her and when Gala his wife died in 1982, he attempted suicide. He was saved by his “friends” (who possibly asked him to sign blank canvasses before his death.) In 1989, when Dali was 86, he finally crossed over into the world of his paintings!

Salvador Dali – the Surreal Man

In 1922, an 18-year-old Dali who was thinner than a stick, discovered the essence of being a great artist. He developed a persona that would convert Dali himself into a master-piece. He used to dress up in a style fashionable about half-a-century before his time, and a young barely-out-of-his-teens Dali was already beginning to push his eyes out of their sockets.

What I really find interesting is the fact that Salvador Dali was kicked out from his art-school because he felt that none of the teachers were competent enough to examine him. I don’t blame him for stating the obvious, but I do think that calling a spade a spade works when the spade is NOT supposed to grade your performance – I think he should have done it after having completed his studies, but then, knowing Dali, he might have done it to ignite controversy – and cook his daily breakfast.

Here’s what he had to say about himself:

“at the age of six I wished to be a female cook, at seven Napoleon, ever since, my ambition has been continually on the increase, as has my megalomania: now all I want to be is Salvador Dali. But the closer I get to my goal, the further Salvador Dali drifts away from me.”
(Source: http://www.theartistsalvadordali.com/)

Salvador Dali’s Mustaches

Dali’s iconic mustaches made their first appearance in the late 1920s and then they clung to his face throughout his life. That is the problem with developing a persona – you’ve got to stick with the good and bad of it throughout your life.

Dali and his Dad

Quite like every other male artist’s father, Dali’s father never approved of his artistic pursuits – especially his hobnobbing with the surrealists. So around 1930 Dali was thrown out of his father’s house, because he said something about spitting on his mom’s portrait, which of course, didn’t go down well with his dad.

Dali and Surrealism

On one hand Dali was evicted from his dad’s house for getting chummy with the surrealists, on the other hand he was expelled from the surrealist group because he didn’t want to take a  pro-communist, anti-fascist stance that all the other surrealists were taking at the time. However, Dali wasn’t worried at all. He twirled his sword-fish mustaches, puffed his chest up, and said, “I myself am surrealism.” Point taken, Mr. Dali.

Dali’s Art

He painted about 1500 paintings. Use the following links to enter his world (Warning: expect slight dizziness.)

Salvador Dali’s artwork continuously changed in form and method. He began as a painter who was strongly influenced by Pablo Picasso‘s Cubism, Dadaism, and Expressionism. He then moved into surrealism but stayed with painting. Later in his life, he began experimenting with the photographic method and the content of his artwork became more science-oriented.

Dali’s Psychological Disorders

The fact that he was an artist extraordinaire automatically qualifies him for receiving at least one Mental Illness Award.
So, what did he suffer from?
1. DSM Cluster A and B?
2. Bipolar Disorder??

Don’t ask – but Dali’s eccentricities (which incidentally had a big hand in making him famous,) have been ascribed to some sort of mental illness.

But then Dali was smart enough to know something that the psychologists didn’t – he knew how to be famous…and he knew that he wasn’t mad.

“The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad” – Salvador Dali

See?

My Opinion on the Great Salvador Dali

(…doesn’t really count…)

However, here’s my take.

Dali was an exceptionally intelligent, street-smart man, who was also highly skilled in using the brush. Thus, he was unlike other artists. I believe that he could have excelled as a politician, a doctor, an engineer, a photographer, a cook…I guess he could have been whatever he wanted to. He however, wanted to be an artist – and he was smart enough to know how to become famous as an artist.

He knew that he had to make Dali a brand in art, and he knew that you didn’t become a famous artist by doing what everyone else did. So he swam against the current, and he made the fact known, even if he had to scream it out in your face. Note that he had begun to develop his persona much before he became renowned for his art. Also note that most of his artworks generated a lot of criticism in terms of multiple interpretations – thus, he was completely aware of the fact that criticism of a certain kind leads to promotion. He ensured that his personality synchronized with his quirky artwork.

I’d have grouped him with the likes of Pablo Picasso and M.F. Hussain, but for his skill with the brush. Dali was an artist who could call his brush to do his bidding. Unlike others who have successfully peddled abstract art that made you wonder if your three-year old could do a better job, Dali makes you think that if the artist of his caliber tossed those objects around on the canvas, he must surely have had a reason to do so.

I bow to Dali’s smartness, intelligence, and skill – in that order.