Notebook, 1993-



Recurring salient thematic element, Dominant Idea or Central Theme . . . . Single or repeated design or color

Discovering and Developing the Motif . . . . Emphasis on the developmental process of composing an image--of putting it together part by part. And, here, a particular kind of composing which comes from discovering and developing a motif.

It is something seen, in whole or in part, which interests one by virtue of its physical nature and by its ability to engage new levels of thought and feeling. A particular quality of light and air, the juxtaposition of one color to another, a shape, a texture--anything perceived, in fact--may become a motif it intrigues and if it is recognized as a visual theme to be elaborated on or developed in the form of a work of art. A motif, when thus acknowledged, represents but the nucleus from which the image to come will be derived-the physical nucleus which will determine the ultimate configuration of the work; and the mental nucleus from which the work's final emotional and intellectual impact evolved.

When the painter or sculptor selects, from the vast repertoire of things seen, this or that thing or event to become the driving force behind the creation of a work of art, he or she is aware of that thing's potential, of the fact that the imagination is inevitably going to be engaged to realize the full creative significance offered by the thing as motif . . . .

The Minimal Motif. The imagination can be stimulated by less complete configurations: by even a detail such as the particular line of curvature taken by a rock's edge, or by the shape of a bright spot seen against a dark ground. In fact, the thing perceived does not have to be three dimensionally real at all. An unusual movement of line arcing its way across the page.... a spiral.... or the pattern on a turtle's shell can, for example, stimulate the creation of a fully developed work whose complex composition was inspired by a simple visual unit.... The detail might serve as well as the complete form....

WORKBOOK [pgs. 247-251]
So much depends upon individual interest, choices, ways of working--outlook.... thus, suggestions:

The Repertoire Approach to Potential Motifs. This method depends upon amassing as large a repertoire of visual "motif references" as possible. To do this it is necessary to spend time constantly looking and constantly drawing. The results will not be immediate: This is a long-term project demanding a certain amount of patience. You should nibble away at it daily, collecting visual "data" as you move routinely from place to place an as you make special forays into the world just to see and draw what you find. Then be prepared to browse through, and reflect on, the images you have made, before starting to compose a motif-inspired drawing. Carry a small, pocket-sized sketch pad with you at all times. Always be on the lookout for any object or part of an object that catches your eye and, using pen or pencil, brush and a diluted ink solution, or any other instrument and medium you choose, make a drawing in the sketch pad. The sketches should be more than a quick impression: its effectiveness later will depend on clarity and firmness of shape, and the graphic vitality it possesses on the page. Henry Moore stores all the interesting things he finds in specially built sheds. Then he returns to them at his leisure and examines them as actual, physical specimens. Your sketch pad is to be the storage equivalent... But, as drawings, your specimens lose their three-dimensional physicality, and you must make up for this by forcefully drawing them, if their potential use as motifs is to be maintained. Choose all sorts of objects to record--from animate to inanimate things and organic specimens to mechanical ones..... one might focus on an object in whole and in part.... When you have a good-sized collection of possible motifs, browse through the sketch pad to see which drawing interests you the most, both with regard to its present form and to the significant variations you discern would be relevant. When you have made a choice then work out the composition. This, in itself, will take time. You must determine the scale of motif and variations.... and decide where they are to be placed relative to each other, and by what kind of context they are to be formally and rhythmically supported, as well as helped to gain in meaning. You must be prepared to work through several designs before the form that carries all your evolving ideas and satisfies as figure-ground organization in its own right comes into being. Do not be satisfied with your attempts to discover and develop a motif until you feel you have thoroughly exploited all the possibilities your sketch-pad repertoire offers.

Have you exhausted the possibilities representative of your interest in this evolving motif?

Which composition best carries all your evolving ideas--satisfies your efforts? In what way?

Which view or perspective or angle best supports the dynamic structure? Reveals its surface quality or texture? Reveals its mass or volume?

By what kind of context will your motif be formally and rhythmically supported?

Does the context in which you are composing your motif help to determine the meaning or significance of this motif to you?

Large and small, either whole or in part, what motif determines the form and meaning of this developed image?

[Harlan, Calvin. Vision & Invention, An Introduction to Art Fundamentals. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986. pgs. 244-252]

R  E  F  E  R  E  N  C  E  S 
Motif n [F, motive, motif, fr. MF -more at Motive] [1848] 1: a usu. recurring salient thematic element [as in the arts]; esp: a dominant idea or central theme 2: a single or repeated design or color [Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition. Springfield, MA, USA: Merriam-Webster, Inc. 1995.]



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