Wassily_Kandinsky,_Aquarell_6,_Kunstdrucke_auf_japanpapier

Super-inspired by Kandinsky; the painter and art philosopher Wassily Kandinsky:

Kandinsky has some of the most sublime color-combinations, abstract forms, and practical and spiritual thoughts on art. Here are some lessons I learned from him:

1. Art is retreating back to nature

Vassilly_Kandinsky,_1912_-_Landscape_With_Two_Poplars

The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and finally— for the supernatural. The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into a silent stillness and becomes white.

Art awakens us an appreciation for life, nature, and the universe.

2. Music x Painting

Wassily_Kandinsky,_1911,_Reiter_(Lyrishes),_oil_on_canvas,_94_x_130_cm,_Museum_Boijmans_Van_Beuningen

Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key to another, to cause vibrations in the soul.

I love music, to me music is the strings of the soul. Kandinsky likens music a lot to his painting — I love this idea of trying to create ‘vibrations in the soul’ with our art and painting and photography.

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1923_-_On_White_II

How do we get in the zone of making art? Just turn off our brains and stop thinking:

Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting and stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?

To be more artistic, listen to more empowering music:

With few exceptions, music has been for some centuries the art which has devoted itself to the expression of the artist soul, in a musical sound.

3. Emptiness is beauty

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1926_-_Several_Circles,_Gugg_0910_25

An empty canvas is a living wonder— far lovelier than certain pictures.

For me, I always start with a black canvas in my photography. I try to simplify my scenes in photography and art; and there is nothing more beautiful to a writer than a blank piece of paper, or a blank canvas for a painter.

For a photographer, there is nothing more beautiful than a blank wall.

4. Color

Color is a power which directly influences the soul.

Don’t think of colors as decoration — think of how your colors in your photos or art can influence your soul; how you feel, your emotions, and your mind.

5. Exercise your spirit and art

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1922_-_Kleine_Welten_I

The spirit like the body can be strengthened by frequent exercise. Just as the body grows weaker when neglected, so the spirit perishes if untended to.

Your body grows weak without exercise. Your art will also languish if not given enough exercise.

If you are a writer, write everyday. If you are a painter, paint everyday. If you are a photographer, photograph everyday.

If you are physically fit, you will exercise everyday.

Use it or lose it.

6. See the world like a child

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1908_-_Munich-Schwabing_with_the_Church_of_St-Ursula

Those things that we encounter for the first time immediately have a spiritual effect upon us. A child for every object is new, experiences the world in this way: it sees light, is attracted by it, wants to grasp it, burns its finger in the process, and learns fear and respect for the flame.

Be like a kid — roaming the world for the first time. See the world— eyes open, doe-eyed, with curiosity and excitement. Point at everything and go: ‘WOW!’ and photograph, or document, or paint it.

That is beautiful which is produced by the inner-need, which springs from the soul.

7. Disregard spectators and the vulgar crowd

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1927_-_Molle_rudesse

With cold eyes and indifferent mind the spectators regard the work. Connoisserus admire the ‘skill’ (as one admires a tightrope walker), enjoying the ‘quality of painting’ (as one enjoys a pastry). But hungry souls go hungry away. The vulgar herd stroll through the rooms and pronounce the pictures ‘nice’ or ‘splendid.’ Those who could speak have said nothing, those who can hear have heard nothing.

Don’t pay attention to art critics.

8. Where does art come from?

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1908_-_Houses_in_Munich

The true work of art is born from the ‘artist’— a mysterious, enigmatic, and mystical creation. It detaches itself from him, it acquires an autonomous life, becomes a personality, an independent subject, animated with a spiritual breath, the living subject of a real existence of being.

I don’t think of myself making photos or art. Rather, my body is just a vessel or a tool to create the work of art.

Don’t think of your art as belonging to you. Detach your ego from your art.

9. What do you have to say through your art?

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1913_-_Composition_7

The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner-meaning.

As an artist, you aren’t just making stuff. You are making meaning.

As a photographer, what are you trying to say? What kind of meaning are you trying to add to the human experience?

10. Feel joy through art

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1939_-_Composition_10

Suddenly I felt that my old dream was closer to coming true. You know that I dreamt of painting a big picture expressing joy, the happiness of life and the universe. Suddenly I feel the harmony of colors and forms that come from this world of joy.

If you’re an artist not feeling joy, you’re doing something wrong.

When you make photos — do you feel joy and happiness?

11. True art is pure and primitive

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1923_-_Circles_in_a_Circle

The more freely abstract the form becomes, the purer and also the more primitive it sounds.

We make art seem so complicated and pretentious. But in reality, art is simple. Think of every child as an artist — and like Picasso said, we must stay artists as we get older.

So in your art and photography — try to make yourself more pure, more child-like, and more primitive. Less pretentiousness.

12. Create art that vibrates your soul

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1913_-_293

Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammer, the soul is the strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.

Make art through your smartphone, your pen, your keyboard, your body, your voice— whatever. If your art evokes vibrations in your soul, and the soul of your viewer— you are doing it right.

13. Abstraction is clarity

The more abstract is form, the more clear and direct is its appeal.

We look at these abstract paintings and we don’t ‘get it.’ I get it. It seems random.

But to me, reality and life is very messy and complicated. So I love abstract painting and art because it shows us true reality — not clear, crisp lines.

Lesson: Make more abstract photos/art.

14. Necessity creates the form

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1913_-_Composition_6

There are many different forms which are equally good. Necessity creates the form. Fish which live at great depths have no eyes. The elephant has a trunk. The chameleon changes its color, and so forth.

There is no ‘better’ form in art— painting isn’t better than sculpture or photography.

Every art form is distinct.

Photography isn’t better in digital or film. It is just different.

Just be flexible with your form, and just focus on making your art.

15. How to train your eye for colors

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1909_-_Murnau_train_et_château

The first colors which made a strong impression on me were light juice green, white, crimson red, black and yellow ochre. These memories go back to the third year of my life. I saw these colors on various objects (houses and roofs, in Russia) which are not as clear in my mind as the colors themselves.

Google ‘Yellow Ochre’ to get inspired by different colors. Google ‘Light Juice Green’ or ‘Crimson Red.’

See colors in the real world without taking LSD or mushrooms. When you’re shooting on the streets, just try to photograph the rainbow.

You can train yourself— only look for abstract forms and colors.

16. Your art awaits you

[I cannot describe the] emotion that I experienced on first seeing the fresh paint come out of the tube… the impression of colors strewn over the palette: of colors— alive, waiting, as yet unseen and hidden in their little tubes…

When you look at your camera, your artistic tool — do you get a sense of excitement? The world waiting to be inspired through your lens and perspective?

17. You control the horse

The horse carries the rider with power and speed. But the rider controls the horse. Talent carries the artist to great heights with power and speed. But the artist directs his talent. That is the element of ‘consciousness’ of ‘calculation’ in the work — or whatever else one chooses to call it.

Treat your artistic creativity like a wild horse. You need to take control of the reins — to guide your art.

18. Art = Religion

 

In many ways art is similar to religion. Its developments consists in sudden illuminations, similar to lighting, in explosions, which burst in the sky like fireworks. This illumination shows with blinding light new perspectives, new truths, which are basically nothing but the organic development, the further organic growth of the earlier wisdom.

To me, I feel a spiritual experience when I look at great art. Do you?

19. Movement

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1935_-_Brown_with_supplement

To make better images or art, make more dynamic ones— with lines, shapes, forms, and movement:

The geometric line is an invisible thing. It is the track made by the moving point. It is created by movement— specifically through the destruction of the intense self-contained repose of the point. Here, the leap out of the static to the dynamic occurs. The forces coming from without which transform the point into a line can be very diverse. The variation in lines depends upon the number of these forces and upon their combinations.

20. Photograph circles

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1913_-_Color_Study,_Squares_with_Concentric_Circles

The circle is very interesting:

You mention the circle — why does the circle fascinate me? (1) It is the most modern form but asserts itself unconditionally, (2) the circle is a precise but inexhaustible variable, (3) the circle is simultaneously stable and unstable, (4) the circle is simultaneously loud and soft, (5) a single tension that carries countless tensions within it. The circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It combines the concentric and the eccentric in a single form, and in balance. Of the three primary forms (triangle, square, circle), it points most clearly to the fourth dimension.

Assignment: only photograph circles for an entire day.

21. Composition is the ‘sum of organized tensions’

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1936_-_Composition_IX

If your photos or images have no tension — there is no interest or composition:

Content is nothing but the sum of organized tensions. From this point of view, one can discover the basic identity of the rules of composition in all arts — always accepting that the arts can only represent their object materially by means of organized reactions. Already today one can safely assume that the roots of laws of composition are the same for art as they are for nature.

Conclusion

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1908,_Murnau,_Dorfstrasse

Study more art (as a whole) — don’t limit yourself to photography. Or else you will never evolve.

For more inspiration, pick up a copy of PHOTO JOURNAL and STREET NOTES, and attend an ERIC KIM WORKSHOP.


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