Why start telling stories now?
Growing up as an artist, I regarded storytelling as a separate entity, something writers did that I just couldn’t do, or honestly didn’t care to try. Later on I realized that I was wrong. Visual artists are storytellers that use light and color to express ideas. Some artists tackle more abstract and philosophical ideas while others follow strict narratives.
I reached a point during my first series where I couldn’t express my ideas well enough, or perhaps the embedded stories began to feel too unconnected. As my interests became more refined and my thirst for expression expanded, I started down the path to this project. Similar to how I approach a painting, my big ideas were slowly defined. Little by little, pieces were put together until I had an elaborate fictional world made up of sites and sounds, places and people with stories that were waiting to be told.
Now, I’m still a painter so I have to stay true to my love of the visual world. However, there’s a new level of storytelling, giving depth to entire project.
Storytelling Process Evolution
- Concept of utopia and other societal ideas
- Place – the visual look of an ideal city
- Who built it? – people and cultures
- Their lives – stories and community
- History – the city, the progression, and everything intertwined with lessons learned
What is storytelling?
I think we all commonly think of storytelling as oral narratives, one person describing a situation with plot, characters, and an overall idea through word of mouth. We also know that this is just one form of storytelling. Like I said previously, stories are not just words and sentences. They’re ideas, morals, entertainment, warnings, etc.
I’m looking to incorporate as many of these types I can without compromising quality. I’ve been telling stories through my artwork, but I’d also like to speak in other mediums. This site is a collection of storytelling. Big events like fires, financial crashes, and new architectural marvels are recorded through historical summaries. The lives of the citizens will be told through small snippets and biographies. Some will even have portraits to accompany them. Short stories may cover other ideas outside the main narrative.
This is a journey to discover a fictional world that feels as real as our own. At its best, the story of Autumn will be told through elaborate history painting with accompanying stories.
The types of storytelling.
There are two basic types of story – fiction and non-fiction. I tend to enjoy my fiction through visual storytelling, like movies. I think that’s somewhat backwards since non-fiction can be pretty dry and hard to get through using just words. It works for me because, as an artist, I can let my mind fill in any visual information. I’m drawn to non-fiction also because you can follow the line of events to see the outcome. The story doesn’t completely end until it reaches our time, essentially a butterfly effect. Historically insignificant people, when given the opportunity to tell their story, create a better context for the world we live in now.
Fiction is just sculpted stories using the language of past events and people sprinkled in with our hopes and fears. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, good storytelling should entertain and inform. Scary stories warn us and shed light on the dark parts of life. Hopeful stories give us strength to continue forward into the future. Adventure stories give us a chance to live dangerously without risking harm.
The subtle (and not so subtle) messages we get from these stories shape how we view the outside world. There’s a reason why our society exploded towards enlightenment after the first book was printed. Access to information, concepts, and events that we don’t experience ourselves helps us grow.
History of the story.
Humans are the only species that tell stories, and we’ve been doing it for some time. Since the time we sought shelter in cave dwellings, we’ve been communicating with others using narrative. Scientists continue to debate the origins and reasons for this, but there’s no doubt we’ve had time to get better at it. You’ve also probably heard that every story that can be told has been told before. I’ve even heard that same thought in regards to artwork. It’s basically true. Good vs evil, rich vs poor, life and death. Only so much can happen to a person, and we all seem to have similar struggles in life.
So why are we still doing it? Well, the fun is in the details. The variety, the reorganization of the smaller events, comes together like a puzzle. We may know the outcome or the concept, but it’s the journey that compels us to follow along. We have fairytales, folktales, mythology, legends, and fables that crisscross cultures and continue to live generation after generation.
Characters start as familiar archetypes, but as time progresses we see them grow through struggle and they become part of our own lives. The clothes they wear, their phrases, personality quirks all add up to fascinating containers of information, experiences, and viewpoints. Characters and plot give us better context to interpret ideas. You can’t just tell someone “Don’t go over there.” You have to tell them “Don’t go over there because a monster with big teeth tried to attack me.” Those specifics let us focus. We need the details to make better judgments as a society about who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Storytelling has survived in order for us, ourselves, to survive and prosper. It helps that it’s fun too.
My own approach.
I have my own goals in storytelling. There are certain themes I want to touch on, some big, some small. The ideas of struggle, improvement, empathy, and community are embedded throughout this project, but they’re not the only ones. The goal for me is to have the messages come across without hitting you over the head with it.
My artwork has always had two main levels of meaning – surface concepts that meet you up front and are easy to digest. The second, underlying message may never reach you, or it may cause you to have a different interpretation than I have, but it’s there if you’re invested. The two rely on each other because without them both, the art becomes either too preachy or too abstract. I admit, I don’t have a degree in writing, but I do have an unquenchable thirst for learning and experience in creating. The process of creating this fictional history is not just to entertain the viewer. It’s for me; it’s to pass on the stories I’ve come across and to fulfill my need to play.
Who is my audience?
The intended audience is no different than it has been before. I’m still a big kid, and I approach my art with a playful mindset. Our lives are filled with depressing news, and it’s tough to be entertained by stuff that’s just as depressing. My work is not all sunshine and daisies, but it is about an optimistic view of our future. I’m a cynic most of the time, but I give people the benefit of the doubt and do my best to approach life with hope. Autumn goes through some tough times, but it’s needs to. It’s a city that learns, improves, and generally moves in the right direction. It’s a romantic view of the future, so I guess my audience is anyone who wants to be hopeful, even those who struggle at it.
In the end…
From the small events in a character’s life to the history altering events that occur throughout the city, every type of story is on my roadmap. I’m looking to create an Autumn that you can see, smell, and touch, one that you want to visit or be a part of. Written word, visual artwork, whatever it takes. At the very least, I want you to want to learn more.
My story starts in a small town in Virginia…