Humans are story-tellers. Whether it’s history, or teaching, or venting, story-telling is a basic communication skill. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a writer, your life tells a story–your story–and you get to tell it in your way. If you start adding pieces of other people’s story, your plot line will suffer. If you start telling it to please others, and change your story for their approval, your story disconnects from you. You may drift away.
Once, while I was doing a demo of Monsoon Papers, someone asked me if the pieces of paper could be framed as is.
“Sure,” I said, “if that’s what you want. I see the pieces as colors and textures to use in collage or art journals. But it can tell a story of color, too.” The woman asked if I had any pieces of my artwork made with Monsoon Papers with me. I did. I showed her a piece.
She looked and asked what it meant. I invited her to explore what the image meant to her. She frowned slightly and said, “A good piece of art speaks for itself. And this one needs you to tell me what it means. So there is something incomplete about it.”
What a surprising statement. How can art speak for itself? A realistic drawing might be of something recognizable, but even that leaves a lot open for interpretation of why it was that image or drawn at that time, or simply what the viewer sees that touches his/her life.
Good art and good stories do not always speak for themselves. They leave the door open for content (which the artist supplies) and context (which the viewer supplies). Together, the same image can mean something entirely different to several viewers. That is the joy of creating.