Lessons Franz Kline Has Taught Me About Photography and Art

Franz Kline: my current muse, and one of the most underrated painters and artists of all time:

Why Franz Kline?

Kline was a contemporary of Jackson Pollock (the guy with the drippy paintings). I particularly love the work of Franz Kline for these reasons:

  1. Minimalist aesthetic: Focus on black and white paintings (almost like Zen calligraphy painting, with more soul and emotion/movement)
  2. Open to Interpretation: When I look at the paintings of Kline, I see what I want to see. I interpret them, based on what I see, and based on my own life experiences.
  3. Assymetric Compositions: To study composition, I find more inspiration in Franz Kline and other abstract painters (Piet Mondrian) than mere photographers. Particularly I’m interested in the proportions of the frame: (how much of the frame is filled with white vs. how much of the frame is filled with black?)
  4. Motivation: When I see the artwork of Kline, I want to move my feet! I want to move my body! This is my theory: the brush strokes of Kline simulates motion; thus, it inspires our muscles and sinews to also move.

Brush strokes

Academic study of Franz Kline

This was probably the most interesting I accidentally Googled: an academic study of Franz Kline– comparing the human stimulus response to his paintings versus the more generic renditions on the right side.

The study showed that when viewers in an MRI machine saw both images, the original paintings with the dynamic brush strokes of Franz Kline lit up parts of the subject brains (which coordinates movement).

Thus this is my theory:

Dynamic movement, assymetry, grit, and strokes inspire our bodies to move.

Also consider why italics are so effective in text (italics are tilted to the right, which gives it more dynamic energy, like a diagonal composition).

Lessons Photographers can apply

  1. More movement, blur, and imperfect grit in our photos.
  2. Keep it simple with monochrome or experiment with simple colors.
  3. Think about composition, and experiment shooting your own abstract photos.
  4. For more inspiration for your photography, study painters and other visual artists, to cross pollinate interesting ideas.

Franz Kline Quotes

  1. Paint the feelings: “I paint not the things I see but the feelings they arouse in me.”
  2. Paint both the black and the white: People sometimes think I take a white canvas and paint a black sign on it,but this is not true.I paint the white as well as the black and the white is just as important.
  3. Do you see the emotions of the artist in their artwork? “The final test of painting, theirs, mine, any other, is; does the painter’s emotion comes across?”
  4. Create art experiences: “These are painting experiences. I don’t decide in advance that am going to paint a definite experience, but in the act of painting, it becomes a genuine experience for me. It’s not symbolism any more than it’s calligraphy. I’m not painting bridge constructions, skyscrapers or laundry tickets.. ..I don’t paint a given object – a figure or a table; I paint an organization that becomes a painting.. ..it’s not these things that get me started on a painting.”
  5. Art-Creation Materials are Never the Same: “Paint never seems to behave the same. Even the same paint doesn’t, you know. In other words, if you use the same white or black or red, through the use of it, it never seems to be the same. It doesn’t dry the same. It doesn’t stay there and look at you the same way. Other things seem to affect it. There seems to be something that you can do so much with paint and after that you start murdering it..”