I’d like to start by directing you to the common classification of arts (cf. wikipedia), so you can knowingly ignore it thereafter. Indeed, I think there are so many common points in these different categories, that it wouldn’t help us know precisely what differentiate or what bring those different arts close to each other. For instance, cinema (the “7th art”) is mostly comprised of many techniques from older arts (theater, literature, photography, music, among others), but possesses a very specific technique (and a major one in history of art) that is film editing.
That’s from this angle that I’d like to define the different existing art forms. This classification is quite subjective, probably incomplete, and certainly deserves to be debated and improved. I may detail in the future each category in specific posts, but for now, I’d rather jump straight away to games, which remain the main subject of this blog. I’d like to state that each one of these categories could be divided in two parts, that are their abstract and figurative sides. To keep it simple, I’ll try to make a chronological classification :
- Illustration: Painting, drawing, collage. This art form is meant to create emotions through the representation in 2 dimensions of real or imaginary things (or a mix of both). The effect comes from the use of shapes and/or colors along with a peculiar interpretation by the artist of the objects or the scene displayed. Digital painting can be classified in this category.
- Architecture: The production of emotions from shapes and combination of non organic objects in 3 dimensions. The creation of scenes or objects in 3D software (like Maya, 3DS Max, Blender) is very similar, in games or cartoon movies.
- Sculpture: The creation of (mostly) organic shapes in 3 dimensions. A significant difference with architecture is that sculpture starts with a bloc of plain material into which we “dig” to create the shape, whereas architecture is rather about adding elements together to create the final object (although it’s never 100% true). From this angle, some techniques used in object modeling (even organic ones) in 3D softwares are closer to architecture, whereas other techniques, consisting of the refining of an object to reshape it, are more similar to techniques used in traditional sculpture.
- Oratorical art (I hope these words make sense in English :-)): Here is an art that doesn’t really exist in any classification, or at least is diluted in theater, cinema, television or radio. And yet everybody knows that telling a story or a text is an art difficult to master and very rich. We can’t reduce theater to this single aspect, so it seems interesting to make it a specific form of artistic expression. Since the art of speaking is older than writing (or is it?), I’ll include into it the art of presenting (or organizing) a story.
- Literature: Since writing has been invented (discovered?) and man tells stories with it, literature is an art on its own. It’s all about compensating the absence of intonation (which exists in oral tradition), with sentences’ rhythm and choosing words. Poetry uses all these techniques and adds some musical touch to them (see “music” below).
- Staging/Directing (not sure which one is the right word…): Initially linked to theater, it consists of composing with space, protagonists and rhythm of action. Directing is rarely used alone as an expression form, but it still is an important part of theater or cinema. To be convinced, just go and see a play directed by two different directors. You’ll get all the value of this art.
- Body language: Here, we can put everything that carries emotion through body (gestures, movements). This can be very figurative (like acting or facial expressions) or abstract (like choreography). It can be found in any piece of work which visually makes the expressing object communicate with its public (either the moving actors are real or virtual ones).
- Music: The archetypal abstract art. Music evokes emotions through the combination of harmonious or dissonant sounds. It is (in my humble opinion) the archetype of art, because, since it doesn’t use any recognizable sound, you can’t cheat with it, as it is absolutely abstracted. Of course, to make it more accessible, text has been added to it, thus making the music more narrative, more understandable, but song is just a layer of literature above music.
- Framing: In painting, illustration, but above all in photography and cinema, the art of framing takes a great importance in the emotion one can feel about a work of art. The technique is mainly about, on one hand, managing the importance of the different elements of a scene inside the frame, and, on the other hand, letting the spectator extrapolate over what exists off-screen thus displaying a scene virtually bigger and richer that it really is. The work of editing and lighting can influence precisely those two aspects.
- Lighting: Lighting influences many of the previously described art forms, and it would rather be defined as a cross-technique for all these art forms. Indeed, it presents absolutely no interest taken alone. Nevertheless, the art of lighting is so important that it seemed essential to dedicate to it a specific paragraph. This element already existed in prehistoric pictorial art, where some paintings actually came to life under the lighting of the prehistoric men’s “lamps”. But it’s when photography (and by extension, cinema) appeared that it acquired a whole new dimension.
- Sounding: In the same way lighting is a true artistic expression technique, sounding allows to add specific ambiance to a scene, and is mostly used in cinema (and of course video games :-)).
- Editing: As I wrote in my introduction, cinema is a mix of many of the art techniques described above. But its specificity is editing. The art of influencing the interpretation of a shot according to previous or even following shots. The most obvious and interesting proof of its value is the “Kuleshov effect” (cf. wikipedia).
- Animation: The art of creating motion by quickly displaying pictures. It’s really with illustrative arts (2D and 3D) that this technique takes its whole value, since, except very specific works (cf. La Jetée), animation of photographic pictures has hardly ever delivered great work of art. The importance for graphical arts comes from the fact that these motions are precisely unrealistic (cf. Preston Blair: “Cartoon Animation” and Richard Williams: “The Animator’s survival kit”) to add a very strong new artistic expression.
- Movement in static pictures : Here, we find the fine art of evocating movement in a static image (this mostly regards Comics and some illustrations like posters, cartoons, etc…). Here, the artist must use tricks to do it, which tricks have been heavily standardized through time to suggest what the drawing cannot really show.
- The transition between comic strip panes: Behind this weird name (any more appropriate name is most welcome) hides the art of creating in the reader’s mind the pictures or scenes that are not drawn. To achieve this, the cartoonist and writer have to cleverly choose the positions and expressions of the characters, the framing and the describing texts or dialogs. This art is close to framing, except that it’s about generating imaginary images through time rather than through space (although comics also use this aspect too).
There it is, I think I have made it through every forms of artistic expression (in my opinion). Now, I’m ready to start talking specifically about video games (which i’ll do next).