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Friday, October 11, 2019

The Digital Storyteller

One of the most fascinating aspects of digital art for me is the ability to tell a story within it. This can be done with any art form. But digital art allows for infinite subtle details where the artist can fill the digital canvas with the tiniest and most intricate of plots. I say plots because like a story, you don't have to have just one plot, but establish many within the same piece of art. 

I think that this is still a very unexplored aspect of the digital art format. 

Unlike a book though, the whole story is laid out in front of the viewer for their interpretation and no viewer will read the story in quite the same way. There is very little to guide the stories direction except for one thing. The title. 

I recently saw an old rerun of an Alfred Hitchcock show called "They are Coming". Through most of the movie the title led you to believe that "They" are a military group that is part of the plot. Its not until the very end that you realize that the "They" were something more menacing and destructive to the world. Such a clever title gave the whole story a context that would not have been present if there had been no title.

This is so much more crucial to a piece of art, where the viewer has only those few words to give the piece any context. A clever artist knows how to manipulate the titles of their work to flow with the story on the canvas. 

Now look at the elements of the piece of art at the top of the page. The title is "Midnight Harbour". We see a ship placidly moored on the edge of a lake. We see swollen moon perhaps eclipsing the sun, or is it? We see a massive aurora borealis in the sky. Its so calm and peaceful but menacing at the same time. What is happening here is left to the mind of the viewer. The only thing we have to go by is that one word "midnight". We can see its a harbour, but if its midnight then we are not seeing a total eclipse. So what are we seeing? 

A good title does NOT tell the whole story. It merely leads the person in a direction where they are left to their own imagination to decide upon. 

This is the true nature of surrealism. A little reality, a little unreality. Where is the viewer taken? 

Now lets look at a slightly more subtle yet complex piece of art.

This piece could be interpreted in so many ways. Some may just see junk along the side of the road. Others may notice how dark and decayed the piece feels. But when you couple this story with the title, suddenly a new meaning jumps out at you. "Home to Some". 

Who would live here? Those with no other home, those cast out of society, those who have nowhere to go except a dirty mattress near an overgrown field? The story the artist means to invoke becomes crystal clear because of those three words.

Do you see the power of digital art to tell a story? And do you see how the use of the title can direct that story? 

It does not always take a lot of elements placed into the art to create the most compelling of stories. "Home to Some" is a very simple piece in many ways, but a very compelling piece. But why? 

Because it uses the third and most important aspect of a good story. "Emotion". When the digital storyteller can craft a fascinating set of elements into their art, there inevitably arises an emotional component to that art. Emotion in the key. The title guides you into the story. The art tells you the story and the emotion makes the story come alive. In the case of "Midnight Harbour" there is a menacing feel to a very calming scene. In "Home to Some" you are instantly left to lay your head upon that cold, wet mattress where perhaps you can hear the rats chewing at the trash near you, or you can feel the lice crawling upon your legs. There is emotion. Raw, sad, frightening emotion. You may not like the piece of art, but you have no choice but to feel the emotions that the artist has forced upon you. 

These are all elements of good art that can be found in any form, whether its painting, sculpture, or collage. But digital art, as I said, allows for the creation of very minuscule additions to the art. Almost like fine tuning an AM radio to try and capture a voice that is almost inaudible. The artist places the elements carefully in order to make some of the story elements so subtle that perhaps only your subconscious picks up on them. 

This is the power of digital art.  

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