A Single Work of Art

Today, instead of dropping a pile of pictures into my Art Day post, I decided to explain a single work of art, what the idea was, and how I think it succeeded.

This picture, called “March of the Tin Soldiers” was created in 1994. It was done on a large sheet of white art paper from a super-sized art pad purchased a decade before in an Art Store in Austin, Texas. I did the initial drawing with a pencil and then colored over that with colored pencils, mostly art-grade pencils from Prismacolor. It took most of a month to complete because I was in the middle of a busy school year at the time, teaching mostly at-risk and special-programs kids.

The idea is that these toy soldiers are larger than life-size. They are marching up a hill, and now that they have reached the top, they are in various stages of making ready for battle. They will be moving into the darkness on stage left. They are leaving the bright pastel world behind and moving into potential future conflicts. The drummer boy is basically me. I am leading the way. The trumpet girl is the young Math teacher that I proposed to that year. The news is in the newspaper hat that is on her head, and she is in the act of trumpeting the upcoming charge.

The army, you may have noticed, are not real soldiers. They are imaginary and inspired by the soldiers in the Disney movie, Babes in Toyland. Thus, I am relying on the powers of my imagination to move forward into the future in this picture.

Now that I have exposed the thinking that was in my stupid head when I made this picture, I may have spoiled it for you. Ultimately, it is supposed to be up to the viewer to interpret a work of art. And I have added information to it that you couldn’t possibly have known if I hadn’t told it all to you. But art is always more complicated than the viewer can ever know. This is why my family gets impatient with me whenever we go to an art museum. I get stuck in front of paintings where I ponder all the unknowables that make it look like what it is, and may be hidden in it somewhere if only I can look hard enough and long enough to see it.

The number three is important in this composition. You may notice that there are three tin soldiers. The three blue towers in the upper left of the picture are spatially related to the positions of the three soldiers on the hill. This is an intentional echoing. There are also three folds in the flapping flag the third soldier is carrying. The three mountains between and above the three tin soldiers are also spatially echoing the soldiers, though in the opposite direction, symbolizing possible retreat. There are only two children in the picture, but the tin soldier leader is positioned so that he can share a single leg with each child, making three and three, symbolizing support and protection, the big three, husband and wife supported by God’s blessing.

Now I have successfully revealed way too much about this picture, more than you could possibly want to know. But if you have questions, you can always ask in the comments. Though I can’t promise honest answers. That kinda depends on what you want to know.

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Filed under artwork, Paffooney

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