Deborah Jackson

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Michelangelo and the Artist’s Vision

Should we continually adapt, adapt, adapt to suit someone else’s vision?

Michelangelo was an arrogant fellow. He had his own vision for his artwork, and it certainly didn’t coincide with the artists of the day.

Years ago, shortly after I completed my university degree (although it wasn’t in art or art history) I travelled to Europe, student-style, and visited the standard castle-cathedral-museum train of must-see spectacles in the tourist brochure. Of course there’s obvious aesthetic and cultural reasons these particular stops are included on the list, but as a science major, they often didn’t have the same appeal and eventually you grow weary of yet-another-church, of yet-another-museum, of yet-another-vineyard-where-you-must-stop-and-sample-the-wine (well, maybe not that one).

We stopped in Paris and visited the Louvre where I saw Mona carefully cushioned within her bullet-proof display case, viewable but untouchable, and still smiling—would you believe it? We wandered through the south of France, tried our hand at | the | slot | machines | in | Monte Carlo and wound our way through the
                                                               of Italy, where we dropped by Florence. I’ll never forget Florence. And in case I would, I took photos.

I'm in this one. Bet you can't find me.

The thing that struck me the most about Florence was the architecture, the vistas, the friendly Italians, the David.

Before we could breathe, or even begin to absorb the flavour of Italy, both Renaissance and Twentieth Century, or watch the street artists capture the vitality of the city with broad brush strokes from the Ponte Vecchio, we were whisked off to Rome.

The most magnificent feature of Rome was The Colliseum, The Forum, The Trevi Fountain (where yes, I threw in a coin, and no, I haven’t returned yet) The Sistine Chapel. I’m sure many of you would disagree with this assessment, and it was particularly odd for someone so philistine, so unschooled in the arts, (and not Catholic) to be enraptured blown away by Mike’s achievements.

As I flip through my photo album, I see everything Mike.

How did that get in there?
When in München, do as the Munchkins.

My daughter is taking visual art and art history in school now. She’s educating me on all things artsy. I’m learning to appreciate abstract art. I’ve come to understand modern conceptual art-modern conceptual art (although not appreciate it—a brick is still a brick in my opinion) (and don’t get me started on urinals). I now know a  Baroque  from a Renaissance from an Impressionist painting. She didn’t know the word for bust and I had to educate her—sometimes it feels good to one-up the expert ;)
It shouldn’t surprise you, though, that the first book on art that I chose to read was one called Michelangelo. I didn’t simply discover more about the art, I discovered the artist. Mike was temperamental, stubborn, worked on his own model of perfection, disregarded the critics of the day and grumbled, grumbled, grumbled about having to paint for various popes when he preferred sculpting. Mike became an expert on human anatomy, studying corpses and revealing humans in twisted, flexible poses rather than the rigid norm. Mike worked reluctantly on the Sistine Chapel, but he achieved something no other human being ever has, in four years time. He didn’t want to paint; he was forced required to, but heck if he wasn’t going to paint his own vision of the Bible, human beings and the world.

I often wonder if we’ve stepped away from writer as artist. I know genre writers aren’t given credit as artists—we’re the poster producers of the art world. But since we’re mixing our own paints, choosing to
                   s p l a t t e r,
                                                   p sponge, or 

                                      b r u s h 
on the texture of our novel world, since we choose our canvas (be it science fiction, thriller, or literary), and then spend months, if not years, improving the image, should we not be allowed to create our own vision?

I’ve sat through a number of agent- or editor-author critique sessions with my manuscripts, and I kid you not, every single agent or editor has a different vision for your work. They often want you to change it to match what they think will sell, or take on the appearance of what they have a particular affinity for. They won’t insist you change the canvas, but everything else, every brush stroke, every tenderly rendered expression, every unusual curvature has to be altered. They’d like to tear down the Sistine Chapel and rebuild it in their own image.

The ideal agent/editor is the one who sees your vision, and loves it. They only want to help you perfect it.

It’s very difficult, if not impossible to be Mike. But it is possible to strive to become the best you can be, and once you think you’ve reached that pinnacle, don’t compromise. Be the artist. Because if you’ve put in the time and used your incredible unique imagination, some readers are bound to “get” your vision.


Jim said...

She has no EYEBROWS!!! Come ON! How could you leave the eyebrows off???

But enough about the Mona Lisa. How've you been?

Deborah Jackson said...

Honestly, there's more to appreciate than a brick or a urinal, eyebrows or no eyebrows.

Doing okay. Deep into the research, physics and archaeology (don't ask) when I'm not appreciating art.

Jim said...

right. . . physics and archaeology "DON'T ASK". . . of course not. . . why would I ask a silly thing like "why?" to someone who writes scifi time travel novels.