Barking Up the Wrong Tree?

Self Expression

I have been trying to figure out how to express my feelings thought the visual arts, specifically through painting. I assumed that abstract expressionism was the way to go. However, connecting of the emotions to the hand with the paint brush seems to require a big canvas: sweeping movements as a dancer would perform with her body. This does not seem possible working a) with watercolors or; b) on a small scale.

Joan Miró

I love Miró’s work. Many of his paintings are chock full of symbols. Not only are they visually appealing, the beg to be decoded. What is he trying to say? As mentioned yesterday, Miró did not consider himself an abstract artist. In fact, he was offended at the idea of being lumped in with that group.

Historically, Miró and his contemporaries practiced surrealism in the early part of the 20th century, after World War I.

André Brenton, known as the founder of surrealism, wrote the Surrealistic Manifesto: “Dictionary: Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.” [1]

Abstract expressionism followed Surrealism: “Abstract Expressionism a development of abstract art that originated in New York in the 1940s and 1950s and aimed at subjective emotional expression with particular emphasis on the creative spontaneous act (e.g., action painting).” [2]

Convincing argument

The following quotation from Miró in response to an invitation to join the Abstract Création group, convinced me that abstract expressionism might not be the right track for me: “And they ask me into their deserted house, as if the marks I put on a canvas did not correspond to a concrete representation of my mind, did not possess a profound reality, were not part of the real itself! … Poetry is expressed through a plastic medium, and it speaks its own language. .. I consider it an insult to be placed in the category of ‘abstract’ painters.” [from Peinture-Poésie, Its Logic and Logistics by Carolyn Lanchner in ‘Joan Miró’ – catalog to 1993-1994 Retrospective]


I made a little more progress through the article cited above, before I was inspired to try another approach to my painting. The article described the meticulous planning that Miró practiced before he executed a painting; it illustrated some of this planning by overlaying a grid he must have used to construct his composition.

Synesthesia theme

Synesthesia is a topic that fascinates me. Synesthesia is, effectively a cross-connection of senses. An individual with synesthesia might taste shapes or, upon hearing a tone, will see a color. Point of interest: Wassily Kandinsky was a synesthete.


I tried my hand at portraying synesthesia the other day; yesterday I posted a sketch of another iteration of this theme. Today, I divided the paper in quarters, by drawing lines between opposite corners.

The left-most of the horizontally-arrayed triangles represents sound wave stimuli. The right-most triangle translates the sound stimuli to a visual response.

The top-most triangle represents olfactory input, while the lower triangle translates it to sound sensations.

Today’s experiment

Today's experiment: synesthesia sketch, following surrealism influence

5”x7” Cold Pressed 140# Watercolor Paper

I must admit that I had fun choosing the symbols for the stimuli and senses, even though I wasn’t exacting in my execution. However, I am not sure where this experiment fits. It certainly isn’t abstract, as I chose symbols to represent different ideas. I don’t know if it is surrealistic. I need to study the Surrealist Manifesto much more closely to understand it better.

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