It is the week before finals and this blog marks my final post in a series for my Art & Christ class. For our culminating project, we were given a vague project prompt called "Act of Faith." We were given the freedom to create a project as a reflection for ourselves or as an act of service. I was lucky to have a project opportunity presented to me earlier this semester. This post documents my journey through this complex project.Read More
This week’s reading covered two topics: symbols and truthfulness. Though both chapters were really interesting I’d like to focus on symbolism. Some of what we had discussed in class reminded me of my final post for Grace & Necessity. If you’d like to read it you can do so here.
In class we talked briefly about Christian symbols in art and I was interested in diving deeper into this topic to uncover one of the more obscure symbols we may come across. Flipping through the Bestiary of Christ, one that really stood out to me was the weasel. Though we didn’t talk about this specific one in class, I thought it would be an interesting one to learn more about. Initially I thought it might be a symbol for something bad, but it is actually a symbol for the perfect disciple (148, Bestiary). The weasel is a small carnivore that can “win combats with much bigger animals than itself” (147). An expression that has been tied to the weasel is “The weasel conceives through the war and gives birth through the mouth.” This can be reflected in a disciple who listens to the word of God and then becomes a teacher of more disciples. A type of weasel called the ermine actually changes colors with the seasons and is one of the symbols of the Resurrection. The ermine is brown in the summer and in the winter turns as white as snow.
In Searching beneath the Surface, Stewart wrote about language and symbols. Much of what he wrote about involved symbols he has been using in his own work. While it was interesting to see what these meant for him, I was really more interested in more universal symbols. Personal symbols can be great but unless the artist has the opportunity to educate their audience, the meaning may be lost or confused. Stewart wrote, “The idea that the mere repetition of an object creates an effective symbol is perhaps too simplistic. At some level there needs to exist a shared understanding between the artist and the viewer of the relationship of the image and its intended content or message,” (143). Without this shared understanding meaning could be lost. On the other hand, “just incorporating a well-thought out symbol in a painting doesn’t make the painting successful,” (145).
In using symbols in artwork, there often needs to be a stage of experimentation and exploration to find the most fitting symbol. Stewart wrote, “The most obvious solution to a problem isn’t always the most interesting. In this line of thinking, much could be said in favor of the struggle to stretch oneself to new dimensions of creativity, rather than doing what comes most easily,” (143). This is so true! And its a message that we constantly hear from professors. Anyone who has taken Intro to Graphic Design with Dave really knows the extreme extent of this through the Quad Radius Variable Square project. We all had to make pages upon pages of alternative solutions to find the best one. Settling for the first idea that comes to mind may be easier, but doesn’t necessarily come up with the best solution.
Honestly, in my own work I sometimes just go with my gut and my final product happens to be with the first idea I have. But there are other times in which I spend time sketching and exploring other options before figuring out which one will suit the project best. Though I don’t think there is a concrete way to do things all the time, a little (or a lot!) of exploration in our work can really push us to create our best work.
It Was Good Making Art to the Glory of God: revised and Expanded Version, Edited by Ned Bustard
The Bestiary of Christ by Louis Charbonneau-Lassay. Translated by D.M. Dooling.
We recently started reading a new book in class titled It Was Good Making Art to the Glory of God. This book is a compilation of essays that look into artmaking from a Christian perspective. The first essay comes from the book’s editor, Ned Bustard. This chapter, God is Good Like No Other, focused on goodness.
At the start of this chapter Bustard writes that artists making art to the glory of God must strive for goodness in their morality and it should also “permeate their artistic efforts” (17). Though we may strive for this, “good is not portrayed well due to a general misunderstanding of what the word really means” (21). Knowing this it is important to first attempt to define what is good.
Some of the definitions brought up by a simple Google search include the following: to be desired or approved of; possessing or displaying moral virtue; giving pleasure; and even “used in conjunction with the name of God or a related expression as an exclamation of extreme surprise or anger, ex: Good heavens!”
In our reading, Bustard identified the original words used in Genesis 1 that have now been translated to “good.” In the original text, the Hebrew word used was “ טוֹב” (ṭôḇ) meaning “that which is good, useful, and especially good morally.” The Greek translation used the word “kalos” meaning “aesthetically beautiful and morally good, pertains to that good which brings joy to God.” This is interesting because it shows that when we read “good” in this context it means both morally right and beautiful (19).
Learning these definitions of good brought to light my own “bounded awareness” in searching for goodness. One often associates the word “good” with words like nice or sweet, even though that isn’t necessarily accurate.
In an article from “On Being,” Courtney E. Martin writes that she doesn’t want to be “good” anymore and proposes that our actions be prompted by curiosity instead. She describes “good” as often being wrongly worn as a shield of immunity or a cape of specialness leading to bloated egos and deprived relationships. It’s a shame that these inaccurate representations of good can lead people away from it. I think that curiosity is a good first step, but we should still continue to step towards true goodness as revealed by God and not the skewed versions of goodness.
In following our curiosity of goodness, we must turn towards scripture. Bustard writes about this in the section “A Good Foundation.” From this section of the reading I found this quote really interesting:
When meditating on the attributes of God such as His goodness during the good work of giving, serving others, and sacrificial fasting, God is often generous in revealing aspects of His person. And when we focus on the person of Christ and His deity during prayer and worship, he helps us understand more adequately the attributes of God, including goodness.
I have recently discovered that one of my goals in my work is to serve others through helping them visually communicating their ideas. Despite this, I find that in my daily work flow I treat projects as just another task rather than a way of serving a client. I wonder why I have the mindset that spending time with God has to be “stepping away” from busyness. Why am I not integrating meditative time with God into every aspect of my life? What would it look like to bring together time spent in the presence of God’s goodness and designing as a service to others?
I hope that by approaching my design work as an act of worship and meditative time I will be able to step further into God’s goodness. If I want to live a life fully permeated by God then I must allow God to fully permeate my life and not continue to segment my life.
It Was Good Making Art to the Glory of God: revised and Expanded Version, Edited by Ned Bustard
There is No Honest Rest: All the Things I Would Rather Be Than Good, by Courtney E. Martin (http://www.onbeing.org/blog/there-is-no-honest-rest-all-the-things-i-would-rather-be-than-good/6983)
Good in Hebrew (http://hebrewword.org/Share-the-Hebrew-Word/good-in-hebrew/)
Welcome to the fourth and final installment of my journey through Rowan William’s Grace and Necessity! We made it!! This section (titled “God and the Artist”) held so much great content, but here I am going to focus on a few quotes that really stood out to me. Let’s get started!
There were a few quotes from this section that have added to my confusion of where I stand as a graphic designer in the world of art. When I was in high school I never would have foreseen myself pursuing a degree in art, let alone being an art major. Yet here I am four years later set to graduate as an art major!
Throughout these past few years at Fox I have jumped into a whole new world of art that I never knew before. Despite the integration of graphic and studio art, I still feel a great divide between the two worlds. Though both fields involving creating, the motivation seems to differ.
Williams wrote, “When we are tempted to confine our vision of mental activity to the successful manipulation of defined objects and the solving of practical problems as to how we negotiate with such objects, we need to recognize that this is not all,” (141). This really goes against a big part of graphic design. Many instances in graphic design require us to simplify and create symbols that can speak to the masses.
We have to take concepts and simplify them into symbols that can be easily recognized by many people. We need to create something that can be instantly recognized and associated with characteristics of the brand that we are trying to convey. In recognizing that each person knows things differently and has different associations with various symbols makes the job of designing a logo seem impossible.
Logos become symbols for a company’s identity. Logos also employ the use of symbols to do this job. Guerrini writes an interesting article on the impact of symbols in logo design here (http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/symbols-impact-on-logo-design/). Williams describes symbols as “a complex bundle of interrelated elements” which is different from signals that trigger reactions but have no meaning in themselves (136).
Later Williams summarizes a claim by Flannery O’Connor saying, “instead of beginning from some kind of search for a metaphor, the imagination shapes a character whose own structural integrity within the fiction produces an excess of meaning which offers a metaphorical possibility,” (143). This further demonstrates the divide between the world of fine art and graphic design. In graphic design, the work usually starts with a creative brief. The creative brief is everything. It will inform and guide all work following. Without it there would be no purpose and the design could just become fluff or meaningless.
In Essential Graphic Design Solutions, Robin Landa describes the design brief as “a strategic plan that both the client and design firm or advertising agency agree upon, a written document outlining and strategizing a design project. […] Most important for designers and the creative team, strategy is a springboard for conceptual development,” (78). But here O’Connor is suggesting that artists must let their imagination go first and from it will naturally come metaphors. This way an artist’s own desires for a specific metaphor isn’t forced upon something that it doesn’t belong to.
Though reflecting on this chapter has contributed to the divide between these two worlds, I am in no way trying to say one way is better than the other. Each of these realms has a different purpose and I am thankful for the opportunity for discussion and community with artists of all trades. Being able to understand one another can help us to grow in our own way and there is so much more value in that than trying to figure things out alone.
Grace and Necessity: reflections on art and love, by Rowan Williams.
Essential Graphic Design Solutions, by Robin Landa.
Symbols and Its Impact in Logo Design, by Sebastian Guerrini. http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/symbols-impact-on-logo-design/
“When people have told me that because I am a Catholic, I cannot be an artist, I have had to reply, ruefully, that because I am a Catholic I cannot afford to be less than an artist.”
— Flannery O'Connor, The Church and the Fiction WriterRead More
This week in class we continued our journey though Rowan William’s Grace and Necessity. We are now in the second part of the book titled “David Jones: Material Words.” While there was a lot of great material in this section, the part I want to focus on here comes from the fourth section of the chapter.Read More
If I ever found myself wandering the city of Ravenna and happened to pass by the Mausoleum de Galla Placidia, honestly, I probably wouldn’t give it a second glance. The small cruciform (cross-shaped) building built of reused ancient roman bricks doesn’t seem like much from the outside.Read More