Communication & Self-Expression Through Art

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  • 0:04 Humans Have Always Made Art
  • 0:35 Communication Without Words
  • 2:16 Self-Expression
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Why do people make art? Have you ever taken a brush to paper and used it to pour out frustrations? In this lesson, we'll explore ideas about communication and self-expression through art.

Humans Have Always Made Art

As long as humans have been on Earth, they've used available materials to make art. From cave paintings, to carved bone statues, to oil paintings, people use art to convey many things: to mark major events, comment on the passage of time, for celebration and mourning, or to adorn personal spaces for satisfaction and a sense of belonging. In a cave in prehistoric Spain, someone painted animal images almost 14,000 years ago. We don't know exactly why this person drew a series of buffalo, but they were probably expressing something about their life and experience.

Communication Without Words

People tend to communicate with words, both written and verbal. But sometimes, conveying ideas is done in other ways. You've heard the old saying ''a picture's worth a thousand words'', right? That's because art can get ideas across using a different kind of vocabulary. Some people respond more to visual images than words. Scholars and scientists have done many studies on how we learn, and they know that different parts of the brain process what the eye sees in many ways. It makes sense that people pursue different means of communication, especially when words aren't effective. Art translates ideas into symbols.

Art also gives the imagination free-reign, allowing you to experience the surrounding world in different ways and then record how you feel about it without relying on words. Think about these quotes from artists who described how they felt about the creative process:

  • ''For me, painting is a way to forget life. It is a cry in the night, a strangled laugh.'' Georges Rouault

  • ''I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way -- things I had no words for.'' Georgia O'Keeffe

These artists have very different styles, but both are speaking through their art. Georges Rouault (1871-1958) was a French Expressionist painter who used paint in a very emotional way. In many of his richly colored works, the paint is thick, tactile, meaning touchable. You can almost see him putting his feelings on canvas. Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) was an American Modernist painter who filtered nature into abstract imagery. The painting might be of a weathered log, but its swirls of reds and oranges twisting and bending against each other convey more than a simple pictorial rendering of an object.

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