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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Deep Storytelling in Art and the Limits of Today's Technology

"The Grand Conjunction" Deep Storytelling Art

What is Deep Storytelling?

Deep Storytelling is the process where by a piece of art focuses on multiple points of reference, each with its own story. 

The easiest way to describe it is to picture in your mind, a painting of a tree. The tree is at full bloom, its branches full of bright fruits and there is a morning dew glistening on each leaf. That tree represents a single story. The mind of the viewer creates that story in their mind because all the elements are present to tell a story. 

Now picture in your mind a slightly larger painting. This one is identical to the first, the same tree in all its detail. But set slightly to one side is another tree. This tree is sickly. The leaves are falling off it and have gathered at the base. The roots of the tree are like gnarled fingers and there is a gaping hole that stretches back into the darkness on the bole of the tree. That tree tells a completely different story than the first tree does. It tells a story of sickness and decay. 

With the addition of the second tree, painting can now tell two distinctly different stories on one canvas, or it tells just one tale that involves the two trees taken as one. The viewer can make up any story in their mind that may involve either tree, or both together. The point though is that the story is now more complex. Its deeper. 

Once again, you see an even larger canvas. On this one is painted the same two trees, plus two more. The third tree is stunted and close to the ground. The fourth is majestic and willowy but there is a wolf staring up into its branches. 

Here on this third canvas the story becomes much deeper. Whats happening here? Only your mind can piece the details together to find the tale. Whatever your mind tells you, its your story alone. The person standing next to you has a completely different story in their mind. Some of the details may be the same, but inevitably the tale will differ based on that other persons life experiences. 

Finally, you see before you a canvas that takes up a whole wall. Its vast in width and in height. Set upon it is not a few trees, but a whole forest. But the canvas is big enough that you can make out the details of many of the trees. Every one is different and unique. Every one tells its own tale but the forest tells a single story also. There are so many details that your mind can barely even comprehend them all. It will take you some time to puzzle through the story that the painting is telling you. You walk away slightly confused, yet still working through what you saw. 

That is deep storytelling. 

The Problems With Today

The problem with much of today's art, is that we don't view it on a gallery wall, but on a computer screen. This screen can be as small as a phone screen or as large a wide screen television set. Regardless, it limits the artists abilities to tell a tale. Da Vinci had the whole Sistine Chapel to tell his tales. Artists these days have only the width of their computer monitor or that of a canvas that can fit in their studio to tell their tales. 

There are still exceptions. Some artists still invest the time and the space in large canvas art. There is still a segment of sculptors that invest their energy into large public sculpture works that can be placed in parks and public lands. There are also street artists who have walls as their canvas. 

But I think these are still exceptions to the rule and only allow artists who have a lot of income flow to invest in space and materials. Even street art on a massive scale takes a hell of a lot of paint to achieve. 

So as the technology evolves and artists become poorer, the canvas, virtual or real becomes smaller. Deep storytelling as an art becomes more and more remote.

Is there a Solution?

When I began as an artist, my focus was on large canvas art. So much so that I filled rooms with it, but found there was little in the way of sales because most people could not fit an 8 foot canvas into their homes. 

Over time (and I admit reluctantly) I scaled down to smaller works most of sculpture and digital art. While I love creating art in any form, sometimes I still feel a loss to not be able to express myself on a larger scale. 

I recently found a program called closr that allowed me to experiment with larger digital art. This program allowed the viewer to zoom in on different portions of the art piece and give it closer examination.

As you can see, this new technology does allow a much greater ability to create deep storytelling pieces. The problem, as I have found, is that the technology still has glitches and is unreliable at times. The program above does not even seem to be supported anymore. The website is left to function on its own from everything we've been able to find. But it does allow for experimentation on a greater scale of Deep Storytelling on a digital scale. 

I do think that the technology will get better in the future. But for now artists are left with few options for creating a more spectacular panoply of art. 

For me, I plan to continue experimental work with Deep Storytelling because I feel it has a lot of value as a creative field. But maneuvering the issues of space, technology and supplies will make it a slow process to be sure. Most artists are happy with a single 1' x 1' canvas to tell their stories. I unfortunately will never be one of them.


Share your ideas on Deep Storytelling below.

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