December 26, 2019

What Can Filmmakers Learn from the Way Andrew Wyeth Paints?

Andrew Wyeth's paintings have inspired some of the most famous directors of all time. So, what about his work applies so easily to filmmaking?

I grew up on the border of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. A few times a year, we'd go to the Brandywine River Museum and feast our eyes on the works of the Wyeth family. To say that Andrew Wyeth's work had a hand in raising me feels like an understatement. 

Every field I walked through and every hill I climbed felt like it had been captured in time by his brushes. 

His masterpiece, "Christina's World", might be the most important piece of American art because its power and wonder can be accessible and inspirational to everyone, including famous Hollywood filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan.

Today I want to take a look at a video essay about "Christina's World" and see what we can learn about filmmaking from Wyeth's process. 

Check out this video from Nerdwriter and let's talk after the jump! 

What can Filmmakers Learn from How Andrew Wyeth Paints? 

For those of you who have not made the pilgrimage to the MoMA in New York, here's a look at "Christina's World" for you. Your laptop is probably not as big as it looks on the wall. But take a gander and let's chat after. 

Aside from being inspired by what I think is one of the most breathtaking artistic achievements in human existence, let's go over five lessons that you can apply to your filmmaking career. 

1. Draw the eyes in every frame 

Look at the way Christina is positioned in the frame. Her body points our eyes to all the pertinent details. When you're shooting, think about this style of framing in your own work. 

And it's not just about the frame, look how she's represented. Vulnerable. Longing. Weak.

How can you set your characters up the same way with just framing?   

2. Be accessible 

One thing this painting does better than most is that it casts a wide net when it comes to emotionally identifying with the audience. When you sit to write or start to direct, think about what your audience sees. 

You want to engage with them and have them engage back. 

The same goes for ideation. 

You need to live a life where you're open to new ideas coming to you. 

Andrew Wyeth was at a party when "Christina's World" popped into his head. He left, sketched, and was working on changing art history just days later. 

Live an open life, don't cast aside ideas, just be willing to nurture them as they come. 

3. Tell us a secret only you know 

Wyeth took "Christina's World" and allowed us to interpret the story behind it, but he did it in a way that felt like we were sharing a secret with Christina. What are the secrets you have to tell an audience? 

Some truths that you feel like are buried and ready to be dug up by an eager viewer? 

Don't wade into your art assuming you have something profound to say but don't hit us over the head with the message either. 

If you produce something truthful and auspicious, we'll be more likely to engage. 

Channel your inner Wyeth and see what happens. 

Andrew WyethCredit: Bill Ingraham/AP

So, those are the last brushstrokes I have for you. 

What's your favorite Wyeth painting? 

Or your favorite artist in general? 

Let me know in the comments. 

And in 2020, let your art out into the world. 

We need more of it. 

You never know who's life you can change. 

Keep creating. 

What's next? What Does Van Gogh's Ugliest Painting Have to do with Filmmaking?

Three months after Van Gogh painted 'Night Cafe,' he had a mental breakdown and cut off his ear. So what can filmmakers learn from what he considered to be his biggest failure? 

Click to read more.      

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1 Comment

My friends made a fantastic film about Andrew Wyeth that takes you even deeper into some of these things - https://www.freshfly.net/wyeth

December 26, 2019 at 8:24PM

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