Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Technical Definition of Art

I guess when you really, really look at it, art is essentially the unique presentation of one or more ideas by means of a particular medium (e.g. paintings).

And if that is so, then the creative process is the process in which the artist finds unique ways to present his/her ideas through the strengths and limitations of the chosen medium; the strongest ideas (in the artist's eyes) make it all the way to the final product. As a filmmaker/animator, what I badly need, as Michael Barrier stated was missing in the post-Fritz the Cat projects of Ralph Bakshi's career, is "the artistic discipline required to bring those ideas to the screen in coherent form."

Inevitably, in most cases, personality plays a large part in which ideas are chosen in the first place, let alone how they are presented. In my case, for my new project I'm working on with a friend, my own struggles between living out existentialism or nihilism greatly informs the bulk of the story, in which two characters have actually become perfect manifestations of the two opposing philosophies.

This definition largely derives from Richard Boleslavsky's analogy, in his book Acting: the First Six Lessons, of dramatic action as a tree:

"Look at that tree. It is the protagonist of all arts; it is an ideal structure of action. Upward movement and sideway resistance, balance and growth...

"...Look at the trunk straight, proportioned, harmonious with the rest of the tree, supporting every part of it. It is the leading strain; "Leitmotif" in music; a director's idea of action in a play; the architect's foundation; the poet's thought in a sonnet...

"...[A director expresses that action in a play] Through interpretation of the play, and through
ingenious combinations of smaller, secondary, or complementary
actions that will secure that interpretation...

"...[I would expect an actor] To comply with nature's law of action, the threefold law you can see expressed in that tree. First, the main trunk, the idea, the reason. On the stage it comes from the director. Second, the branches, elements of the idea, particles of reason. That comes from the actor. Third, the foliage, the result of the previous two, the brilliant presentation of idea, the bright conclusion of reasoning...

"...[The author] is the sap that flows and feeds the whole" (Boleslavsky 56-57).

I highly recommend anyone interested in any aspect of theatre, film, or animation read Boleslavsky's book. It's downloadable for free at

Barrier, Michael. "Funnyworld Revisited: A Bakshi Glance." April 4, 2004, revised May 9, 2004.

Boleslavsky, Richard. Acting: the First Six Lessons. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1993. Print.

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