Exactness is not the same as expressing the exact emotion in our work.

Our discussion in yesterday’s post “Shadow Memories” entered into my dreams, leaving various images and reflections scatter around at dawn where small birds and coffee tell me it is now morning. Shadow memories are distorted reflections, yet their fleeting brilliance, can engage our emotional responses more deeply than the original image or experience.

From my training and experience as a counselor, I know that some memories are stored in our brains differently. These memories can be trauma memories or any experience that is overwhelming. We store these experiences without “feeling” first. When the time is right, we can “reflect” on those memories and experience the emotions connected with that moment for the FIRST time.

Why am I telling you this? What does this have to do with writing, painting, photography or other forms of creativity? I believe it may have everything to do with creativity. Creative work that moves us, positive or negative, must elicit an emotional response. Countless examples tell us that it is not the perfection or accuracy with which the creator has captured the original experience but rather, the accuracy with which an emotion is captured that makes, impactful work. The entrance to that emotional connection is likely a distorted emphasis or reflection of a subject.

Take for instance the sketches above. When sketching, I have little ability to edit. I sketch quickly. My marks are made in rapid succession on the paper. I “feel” rather than show you exactly what I am seeing. The feelings are not just the ones present at the moment but also the ones that flicker in the shadows connecting through all time and space that I define as my experience. The sketches are far from being an exact replication of the nude male model I was drawing. Yet, in the distorted strokes of the charcoal on paper there is little doubt that they reflect a nude masculine form. Shadow memories flicker through or prance in the forefront of our creativity providing passages into deep emotions for ourselves and then for others.

Today I shall write as I sketch. I shall not edit. I shall write and allow the distorted brilliance of shadow memories to catch my imagination with vivacious autonomy.

Sprout Question: How do you access the exact emotion expressed in a piece of work?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

14 thoughts on “Distortion

  1. In fact I think the emotion of the artist and the emotion of the viewer are not necessarily entirely the same. The viewer creates an emotion out of his own experience (shadows) which resonate with the piece.

    Personally when viewing I try to still myself, open myself and wait for stirrings from within.


    • Thank you Peter for stepping up and putting out the first sprout for today’s questions. I agree. The emotion of the viewer are not necessarily the same as the artist. I like your approach to viewing. I know an artist who went to view a favourite painting in Italy. The artist went back for whole week, and sat in front of the same painting from the time the gallery opened until it closed. It was only then did the artist feel that the painting had been received and fully view. Your comment Peter reminds of the importance of taking time when viewing.

  2. Fascinating article and question – I come from the writer’s perspective, not a visual artist, but I think the idea is the same. Trying to come up with an ’emotion’ or the idea of one in a story, for a character, something a reader can latch on to – it is important to understand that emotion for yourself. I maybe writing a piece of fiction, but I must know what my characters are feeling and have experienced them in some fashion myself, or it will never come across.

    Words can never give you the truth – just the facts, so, like drawing perhaps, you focus in your sketch on capturing the moment, the experience as you say – in writing I try to do the same thing. If I have to ‘think’ about it I know it will never be – because then I’m trying to imagine something I’ve never experienced – but if I know it, have been hurt, rejected, depressed – I just have to let it happen. I can take a bit, involves a lot of pacing or doing other things – but if it is going to be in anyway honest, you have to let go of the intellectual side of it.

    Like Peter says – holding yourself open to it, letting it happen.

    • Thanks DJ, nice to have a writer’s perspective as well – even though, like you say, the idea is the same. I appreciate how you expanded your thought. Seems it is the same kind of place I work to meditate from… letting go of “the intellectual side of it.” I’m glad you were able to drop in.

  3. We all view art from our own experience and perspective and so no two responses will be alike. That is a good thing and is what makes art such a valuable form of communication. And I agree, giving ourselves the time to reflect on a work of art will allow the emotional response to surface. Direct, personal communication with the artist is also invaluable in enriching the experience for everyone, including, and maybe especially, the artist.

    • Chiaink I so agree with “no two responses will be alike.” A number of years ago my son and I did a photo shoot together of arbutus trees. We spent the day, walking and talking (a little) and taking photos – together – on the same path – at the same time of day – of the same subject matter. The results? Very different. Absolutely amazing.

      I enjoy speaking with artist about their work and having communication with others about mine (I guess that is why I host Creative Potager). There is something extra added when an artist tells how a painting, a story, a photography or a song was created.

      Thank you Chiaink for your thoughts and contributions to today’s sprout question.

  4. How do you access the exact emotion expressed in a piece of work?
    I try and start a piece emotionally neutral then just start thinking about a specific event or feeling that i want to occupy my mind with while i paint. i usually write it down on somewhere on it so i stay with the same theme. there are also lots of techniques to access emotions developed for acting that are useful.

    • Thank you Jerry. Your sprout response shows a very purposeful intent in your emotional integrity to a particular piece and a well defined process. I am going to take this away and think about it some more. So glad you were able to come by.

      In addition, I want to thank everyone who step in and responded to today’s sprout question. It wasn’t an easy one and as with most of the questions I don’t have the answer. I just like to coming up with the questions:) However, collectively we have one rich, inspiring discussion happening on this post. For this I am extremely grateful. I also want to thank everyone who has come by and read and are still pondering your sprout. This is the beauty of a blog… you can come back and visit again later.

  5. I think a piece of art is great when the viewer, or reader, or listener, finds something very personal in it. It’s a collaboration between the artist and the audience. If the story or piece of music or visual art tells us too much, doesn’t leave room for us, in other words, by being too predictable, it is a cliche, not art.
    So for me, I access my own personal emotion in a piece of work by letting it soak into me through my senses, and letting my imagination go to work on it. Collaboration.

    • Hello Amber, you were posting as I was responding to Jerry and adding a wee general comment. I like that – “leave room for us” Thank you so much for leaving another strong shoot to grow here at Creative Potager.

      There is something about the unfinished line in a drawing that says more and I think the same is true in writing and other art forms. Even in photography it is important to consider how a partial image can focus on what is essential – often through the skilled use of shadow:)

  6. “Shadow memories are distorted reflections, yet their fleeting brilliance, can engage our emotional responses more deeply than the original image or experience.”

    “Creative work that moves us, positive or negative, must elicit an emotional response.”

    Geez, I couldn’t agree more!

    Yes, it’s how a work affects one on a personal level that dictates the level; of emotional response, and it doesn’t always have to one that brings tears. Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” sends shivers while you look at it, causing a kind of emotional catharsis.

    • Thanks Sam for your sprout! Good inclusion with “The Scream.”

      That is what I wanted to do when the stovetop coffeemaker refused to spit its black necessity to my day out the top of its spout – for the second day in a row!!!! My partner was still sleeping so I withheld my natural desire.

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