The greatest art is that which moves the viewer in a positive way, which touches perhaps dormant sensibilities inherent in human nature, and awakens and/or fortifies man's better qualities in so doing. Great performances in all the arts accomplish this same goal. A well-written operatic aria, for example, sung brilliantly and with feeling by a virtuoso soprano, can move an audience profoundly, raising the hair on the neck and bringing tears to the eyes, leaving at least some of them gasping and choking back sobs of deeply felt emotion as they try to maintain their composure . Experiencing such profound appreciation for a masterly performance leaves one forever changed for the better. It cannot do otherwise. Great Literature provides many comparable experiences. In painting, it is possible to achieve the same thing.
Great Literature provides many comparable experiences. In painting, it is possible to achieve the same thing. The reader is referred to Rembrandt's "Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver" for an excellent example. The depth of Judas' remorseful anguish is compellingly conveyed by his body language as well as his facial expression, and the viewer cannot help but be deeply moved upon viewing it.
Compassion and sympathy are called forth as the audience feels the anguish of the subject, so eloquently is it expressed in the painting. Compassion , empathy, sympathy; these are all aspects of man's better nature. To change people for the better—what more noble purpose could an artist be called upon to fulfill? To what higher calling could we aspire?
In each of the examples presented above, the means by which the experience is made possible is virtuoso performance in an artistic endeavor by a Master of the discipline employed. Whereas the focus of the performance itself is to make the audience feel whatever the artist wants it to feel, it must be stressed that the objective can only be successfully attained through a thorough understanding of every aspect of the art form involved, including the psychological effects produced by each possibility. There is a language to be learned, and mastered, before any great performance is remotely possible. In literature, the language is verbal; in music, it is music theory. In visual art, it is a thorough understanding of the Principles of Visual Reality, coupled with heightened aesthetic sensibility and mastery of drawing and painting techniques. Why the Principles of Visual Reality? Because we live in a world of realistic images. We relate to realistic imagery. We even dream in realistic imagery. Of all the visual possibilities available to a painter, the only way to move our viewers to the utmost is to employ realistic imagery in our work. We may depict things which are not real, but if we render them in accordance with the Principles of Visual Reality, they will read as if they were real, and thus will be able to exert maximum impact on the viewer. It is the language by which we express whatever it is we wish to express, and which our viewers will be able to read and comprehend on the receiving end. Our messages cannot communicate if we speak in a language comprehensible only to ourselves. Thus we must use a language common to everyone who can see. Realistic imagery is that language.
The Principles of Visual Reality are established by the way our vision works. The further one deviates from these principles, the less the work in question will resemble visual reality. In creating the illusion of reality, the artist depends heavily on the indication of the third dimension, which is depth, or spatial recession. Spatial recession is indicated by observing the principles of Geometric Perspective, Atmospheric Perspective and Selective Focus.
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