On Painting: An Essay by Jim Cogswell
Paint is a living language for me, with grammars and nuances that challenge me beyond any other intellectual or creative pursuit that I have ever experienced.
For some people paint is simply a material, another medium, and a very traditional medium at that. For others it is the Bible — the Holy Writ. Or it is the Constitution. Divine what the Founding Fathers intended and strictly adhere to it, or risk anarchy. For others, it is one minor piece in a complicated art world chess game, a pawn to be moved about in a theoretical construct of art practice. Relevant or irrelevant? Dead or alive?
That is one set of questions that, naively, doesn't trouble me.
For me, painting as a language and practice is alive and changing all the time.
I study it. I try to keep up with it. I struggle to speak it better. I am thrilled when I hear others speak it well. I love visiting countries where it is spoken. I get excited when I discover someone who is adding another layer to its tapestry of possibilities. And that is happening all the time. Right now. As we speak.
Painting is the magical conjunction of space/no space; movement in stillness. A balanced experience of absorption and self-awareness. Slow looking.
A painting is both a tangible surface and a perceptual space. Great painters create fluctuating tensions between the experience of seeing surface and depth. The task of doing that well is mammoth.
The territory is well traveled, but the possibilities endless, like this tired language of ours that still manages to produce incisive and ecstatic poetry, the limited chromatic scale that still results in new arrangements of sounds in music, bringing deep feelings into somatic awareness, putting my body in motion, bringing me to tears.
All of it is accomplished within a tight range of restrictions. The restrictions are the source of the poetry and the thrill.
There are many strategies for keeping the viewer in that delicate balance of seeing the painting as both window and surface. Emphasizing paint’s materiality is one of many strategies for calling attention to the physical surface, but that easily can degenerate into gratuitous gesture, the pseudo-heroics of the urgent mark.
A big issue is how to translate the materiality of paint into something that points beyond itself. Allowing the inspirational source itself to provide the gesture while acknowledging the illusion. The tension is the thrill.
Within a painting, color has the capacity to become a noun, one might even say a concept in itself. Color becomes magical and potent when it crosses that threshold from adjective to noun, from quality of thing to thing in itself.
All of these strategies and many more work in tandem with our desire to recognize objects or qualities of experiences, even intangible feelings, within that structure of colored marks on a surface. Those desires are closely tied to our perceptual experiences, ways that the brain is hard wired but also shaped by cultural context, historical exposure.
Looking at a painting is a magnificently dense experience for me. I never tire of it.
What is the purpose of an art essay?
Generally, an art essay is an essay that talks about art in sculpture, paintings, architecture, music and portraits.
These kinds of essays are used for:
- Painting visual pictures: an art essay is an essay that showcases visual arts and creative ideas that people have come up with.
- Improving creativity: the whole purpose of art essays is to provide a platform for students to tap into their creative side and vividly paint a picture of a certain image using words.
Art essay topic choice
Like every other essay, there are general tips that should be considered when coming up with an art essay writing topic.
- The type of art: this may include a painting, a sculpture or just a simple hand diagram. The type of art is important as it sets out what you are supposed to write about.
- What intrigues you about the art: this is the most important part of the essay. The whole art essay is based on what you want others to know about the piece of art.
- Personal interests: what you, as a writer, love is very important as it narrows down the topic. It is easier to write on topics that are well-known to you.
There are a number of art essay writing topics to choose from.
Below is a list of topics for an art essay
- Differences between Picasso’s concepts and Matisse’s
- The history of art in the Netherlands
- Differences between Bernini and Borromini
- The inspiration behind famous painting
- The Mona Lisa
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- Ancient Roman structures
- The sculptures of nude women
- Impressionism era of art in Netherlands
- The graphics of modern day art
- Insinuations behind ‘The Thinker’
- The Pieta of Michelangelo
- The contribution of Vincent Van Gogh and Piet Mondrian
- Flemish Baroque in the 17th century.
The above are some of the good topics for an art essay.
Structure of an art essay
The art essay topics determine the kind of structure to build on. However, most have a standard art essay structure.
Sample of art essay outline
The Mona Lisa is one of the most known paintings in the world. This is the painting of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco Del Giocondo, believed to have been painted in the 16th century. It is the work of Leonardo da Vinci and it was purchased by King Francis I. The Mona Lisa is currently under the ownership of the French government.
The Mona Lisa has had a great impact towards the contribution of art in France:
(i) It is one of the most famous paintings in the world. The Mona Lisa is the painting that everyone wants to see. It is so precious that only a copy of it is actually showcased in the museum.
(ii) It has led to the growth of art. The Mona Lisa has inspired artists all over France. There has been a rise of many artists including Camille Pissarro, a painter, and Etienne-Jules Marey, a photographer.
It is clear that the Mona Lisa is the soft spot in France. The French take pride in it and have used it to improve their lives. Besides its contribution to art, it has also placed France among the leading countries that celebrate art. This has therefore created a culture of being drawn to art and it is reflected in their way of life.
The above is a sample of outline for an art essay.
Arts essay tips on writing the introduction
An art essay introduction identifies the art and the artist. Art is diverse, as it could be sculptures, architecture, performing arts or paintings in it. This is where you state why you chose that topic. It also contains a history of the said art and brief details, like who the artist is, the year, the location, etc.
The introduction for an art essay states the thesis. It may be a general statement about the art or a specific aspect of it.
Tips on thesis writing
The thesis statement should be simple and easy to write about. Too complex statements tend to be confusing.
- Pick a statement that is closer to your understanding.
- Ensure it is as simple as possible.
- To avoid irrelevancy, one can have an art essay draft that they can build on.
Tips on the body (transitions, paragraphs, and length)
This is the main part of the essay where you derive analysis based on your point of view. Describe why the art is so appealing to you. Ensure that your defense covers an angle that has not already been covered for uniqueness. For example, one can focus only on the strokes of a portrait. However, ensure that what you describe is relevant to the thesis of your art essay topics.
The essay should not be too long. The sentence construction should also be well done. For this reason, it is advisable to have your points arranged into paragraphs. Ensure that each paragraph is independent and speaks volumes. This ensures that the art essay hooks the reader.
The transition from one paragraph to the next should also be smooth. Using cliché transitions makes the essay boring; therefore, you need to be creative.
Tips on conclusion writing
In an art essay conclusion, one needs to state their opinion. What you think the artists` feelings were and why they decided to paint it the way they did. At this point, you can state the events that contributed to the artist coming up with that art. The conclusion for an art essay requires a lot of research into the background of both the art and the artist(s). For this reason, the references and sources of the information should be cited.
Advice for writers
In art essay writing it is important to first do your research. Art is so diverse and this can be sometimes confusing. The topic to write on should be related to your interests, for example, as a musician, you would find it easier to write about performing arts and music. Besides this, do not plagiarize any work done. Cite and state all sources, making sure that you observe all rules of patent and copyrights.
For you to be a good writer, these art essay tips will be very helpful. The best writer is the one who admits to being in a need of help. The art essay writing guide can also be used to find more about art essay writing steps. Different sources could give different art essay outlines so you need to be careful.
Finalizing the essay
After writing the art essay, it is important to have a clean essay. This calls for proofreading and editing. Proofreading ensures that you do not have any grammatical errors, the art essay outlining is as required, your sentence construction is good and the language used is the required one. Some sites offer art essay writing guide for use when one gets stuck. Proofreading also ensures that the art essay structure is followed. After this is done, ensure that the format used is correct whether APA, MLA or Chicago.