23 February 2015

Drawing for everyone

I'm taking a drawing class in college right now. But a lot of drawing is done by people who are not "studio artists," because drawing is a primal tool we use to understand, analyze, communicate, explore.

This weekend I went to a concert by the Utah Symphony. The orchestra and conductor debuted a piece by the American composer Augusta Read Thomas. Leaving aside criticism of the piece itself, I was drawn to this drawing by the composer, a copy of which was posted in the concert hall:

I tend to dislike it when an artist tells you exactly what each element of their work "means," but this chart seems abstract enough to me not to deprive audience members of experiencing the piece on their own terms.

Physically writing her music is an important part of Thomas' process. I like how she describes her drawing tools here:

I wonder how often she uses drawing in combination with conventional music notation, and at what point in her creative process. To me it seems like the above chart was made post-composition.

Thomas introduced her piece as something "with a lot of color shifts," which her diagram visually reflects. The color in the chart reminds me of Wassily Kandinsky, a synesthete who dithered between devoting his life to visual art or playing the cello. He titled his paintings "composition [#]" as if they were pieces of music. Although they're oil paintings, some of his compositions feel more like drawings than paintings.




  1. Don't forget about James Whistler! He's one of my favorite painters, though it's really just because I'm in love with his "Nocturne in Black and Gold." It really irked him when people would ask what his works were about, with him often responding how it does the asker no good if he (the artist) has to tell him. Interpretation/meaning is up to the viewer. Despite having discernible subjects sometimes, i.e. his mother for "Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1," it's less about his mother than it is the inspiration he found through music.

  2. True! Visual art has never existed in the vacuum of its own discipline.