Writers are Artists, Too


A few years ago — five years ago now, I guess — I was very active on the deviantART website.

If you don’t know — and why would you, really, unless you’re an artist? — deviantART is MySpace or Facebook for artists. It provides a community and showplace for artists to display their work and, if they get lucky enough, receive feedback on their displays. Comments, however, can’t be moderated or controlled — anyone can say anything they’d like, not only to the artist, but to any commentator as well. (This is an issue, in my opinion, and something dA needs to look at modifying.)

Now, dA allows almost anything to be posted as "art" — things which could be considered masterpieces, or at least the work of modern masters — to borderline pornography, to children’s drawings (or worse) can all be uploaded. The medium isn’t very limited either. Raw Photoshop files can’t be uploaded, but they can when converted to PNG or JPG images. SWF files can be uploaded, too, and so can film clips (!) and short films in various movie formats. It’s wide open.

Among the many visual art pieces out there, of course, are photography and photo-manipulation pieces. Paintings done traditionally can be photographed and uploaded, or pieces created digitally can be converted and uploaded. And writers have their own creations there too.

There’s no problem with providing artists a way to get their stuff seen. But until recently, writers were treated as second class citizens in the art community.

I wrote about this extensively before. I don’t remember whether here or elsewhere, but for the most part, attention isn’t evenly divided among artists on art communities. The priority seemed to be hand-created artwork (whether traditional or digital), then photography and photo manipulations, and then any other visual art remaining. When all is said and done, writing and literature is at the bottom of the list.

Before I stopped actively posting on deviantART, things were being done to help level the playing field, but honestly, not much inroad has been made in that regard. For one thing, a lot of writing is ignored on art sites because people go there for…well, artwork. The problem lies, in my humble opinion, with the definition of "art" as a base.

Words are the most abstract form of art there is. Think about it. If I write the word "hand", your mind can visualize an actual hand. But that’s because you’ve been taught to associate that particular word with that particular object. It took training, practice, and a lot of positive encouragement for you to learn the letters H-A-N-D mean the five-digit appendage at the end of your arm. But the letters H-A-N-D don’t look anything like the thing they describe, and therefore, it’s not considered "art" — despite the fact it’s a series of lines which describe an object. Just like a drawing would, or a painting would, or a series of pixels might.

The art of language is so abstract, it might take several thousand words to describe what a single drawing, painting or photograph might render. It is, to borrow an analogy from the immortal Mr. Spock, akin to building sophisticated electronics with stone knives and bear skins. Yet, when the discussion of artists comes up, the writer is left out in general. Oh, great writers are discussed with similar tones, but honestly, they’re not often considered in discussions of art.

I suspect this is due to "art" being defined as visual creations of a less abstract nature. In general, we admire most images which closely represent the objects of which they are representative. That is, in Homer Simpson speak, things which "look like the things they look like." The more true the image is to the object it represents, the more we (typically) like it. But, even more abstract "visual art" — you know, paint blotches and swooshes all over a canvas and hung in the MOM in most major cities — finds more favor than the abstraction of words.

Literature, as a result, is classified on it’s own, separately from visual media.

Should it be?

Your voice matters to me. Tell me what YOU think.

-jdt-

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2 thoughts on “Writers are Artists, Too

  1. “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” – Martin Mull

    Y’know, that’s not bad.

    I guess it depends on how you define “art”. For myself, the definition I’ve found most useful is “Anything created by a human with the intention of focusing and transforming your attention.” That’s the best I can do. I know it’s not specific enough, but maybe that’s good. For example, it leaves the door open to define teaching as an art. Maybe instead of subtracting literature from the definition of art, we should add teaching. And impromptu picnics. And puns. Etc…

    Have to be careful though, Spark. Pretty soon belching the alphabet becomes an art…*shudder*

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