Which Came First?

I watched several instructional YouTube videos yesterday, videos posted as marketing pieces for online art instruction.  My purpose in watching them was to learn a bit about painting with acrylics, something I’ve done several times without the benefit of any instruction or coaching.

Initially, I thought the idea of online instruction for such an obviously hands-on endeavor was absurd, like teaching surgery skills through the use of smart phone text messages. Quickly, though, my skepticism disappeared, replaced by rapt attention and keen interest.  The first video I stumbled onto, a component video on stenciling, was part of a unit entitled “Top 10 Acrylic Techniques with Chris Cozen.” Rather than the slick promotion piece I expected, it turned into four very interesting minutes about a technique about which I knew virtually nothing. From there, I wandered into a thick web of instructional videos that quickly consumed two or three hours of my time.

It was while watching one of perhaps a dozen videos that the idea occurred to me: verbal art feeds on visual art. One of the videos showed a technique in which thinned acrylic is allowed to drip down vertically on the canvas. The demonstration of the technique brought to mind a description I’d read in a book long ago.   I don’t recall the book, nor do I recall the exact words, but the concept was something like this: “Hanging from the thick canopies of leaves above were long, thin, brilliantly colored tree trunks that looked like they had dripped haphazardly down an artist’s canvas, picking up colors as they flowed.”

The question, of course, is which came first, the art or the words describing nature in terms of art?   That question cannot be answered satisfactorily, just as one can never know whether the chicken or the olive came first.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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