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Boiling Down

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Locate Essence

Over at Dumb Sketch Daily I’ve attempted a couple abstractions (per my brave declaration), and the sketching process is starting to become clear: recognize the heart of an image and work with the essential shapes. A few of my art-minded interlocutors (Kerfe, Larry Zink, and Laura of course) have contributed to my slow understanding of the process. It’s really a hands-on thing: One learns by doing.

Chester Arnold: Thy Kingdom Come II, 1999. Oil on canvas. (di Rosa Art Museum)

Chester Arnold: Thy Kingdom Come II, 1999. Oil on canvas. (di Rosa Art Museum)

Today’s writing process involves at least one project where I must also reduce and abstract. But “abstract” seems the wrong word: I must locate the essential bit and then work to make that piece clear, understandable and compelling. Oddly enough, clarity sometimes flows better through comparison than it does through paragraphs of didactic copy. And that may be the point of abstraction. An image can remind of something entirely opposite. Abstraction can become an emotional bypass. But it need not be anti-intellect. Especially if it causes someone to stop and think.

Looking for essential bones of an idea may be my favorite thing about writing: locating the bones and laying them bare. More and more I’m finding those idea-bones are best expressed through analogy or metaphor, where a simple image paired with simple words replaces long and labored explanation.

Boiling down and locating essence may be a life lesson for me. It’s far easier to do for clients than it is my own ideas.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

August 19, 2015 at 2:40 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Dumb Sketch Daily and commented:

    Thanks, art friends, for helping me learn stuff every day.


    August 19, 2015 at 2:41 pm

  2. Great analysis of simplifying and clarifying…I think it applies even beyond writing and visual creation.
    And Arnold’s painting is wonderful too. I think my mind often resembles it. (K.)


    August 20, 2015 at 5:56 am

  3. Well-synthesized. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the process.

    Laura (Createarteveryday)

    August 20, 2015 at 7:32 am

    • Thanks, Laura.


      August 20, 2015 at 7:51 am

      • Don’t let me forget to sketch random strangers when things with Penny settle down. I don’t like to leave her side at this point, unless I have to. I’m proud of you for doing this!

        Laura (Createarteveryday)

        August 20, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      • Good luck with Penny.


        August 20, 2015 at 12:15 pm

  4. I also adore that painting. But I came in here to tell you about this book.

    The author is featured in several DVDs about abstract work and this is her book. I love her work! You might get some inspiration and direction here, if you’re so inclined.

    Laura (Createarteveryday)

    August 20, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    • Very good! I always appreciate your book and materials and resource suggestions. I’ll order this very moment. Thanks, Laura!


      August 20, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      • You’re welcome! She works primarily in pastels with acrylic under paintings, but I’m finding her instruction in abstraction enlightening, regardless. Her work is beautiful. I was able to snag a copy through ILL. You can also preview the book on Amazon. It was apparently published just this year! (Love that new book smell.)

        Laura (Createarteveryday)

        August 20, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      • I just did a quick check on our county library system and the big statewide system–didn’t see it. I’ll look again later, though. I bet I can find it.


        August 20, 2015 at 3:08 pm

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