| Angie Counios

Details Direct

I am usually loaded with words—too many sometimes, if you ask Dave.

One afternoon in the senior art class at school, a student asked me how to make "light purple." I kept it very simple and I directed her to dioxazine purple and titanium white.

Shortly after she came back and said “that’s not the right colour—I need light purple.”

If you’ve ever stood in front of the paint chip counter at the hardware store and looked at the wall of paint color samples, it is a good illustration of the specificity that this young artist needed.

Which purple did she need?

I asked if she needed it pinker or bluer—warmer or cooler—brighter or duller. I asked what it was compared to and what it was for and what it would be beside in the painting. I asked her if it needed to be lighter or darker than what she mixed.

I asked a lot of questions and then I offered my new suggestion of of what colors to mix. She came back and said, “That is exactly the color I needed. Thank you.”

Words are important in getting what you need and getting people to see what you want them to.

I do an exercise with students when I try and teach them that there is no wrong answer in creativity. I have them close their eyes and ask them to picture a coffee table. I ask them to imagine the table with all the details. When they are done I have them to open their eyes and I begin asking questions:

  • what it’s made out of
  • what shape is it?
  • how tall it is?
  • types of legs?
  • what’s on it?

And you know what? If there are 25 students in the room, there are 25 answers.

No answer is wrong. I ask them to picture a coffee table but they are all different based on their experience. If I wanted them to picture a rectangular glass top with four simple black iron legs, I should say so.

In telling stories, I do want to direct readers to see specific people, places and things. The direction is in the detail and it was never so well-illustrated (pun intended) than the day my young artist asked for light purple.

Words really do matter when sculpting a visual story. If I want the reader to fill in the blanks then I should keep details vague. I guess it's a bit of a game of what I want to show.

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