Now, I’m absolutely looking forward to the day when Canada Post drops Lance’s book on my doorstep. He has done far more research and education about art theory than I am ever likely to do, and I can’t wait to read his thoughts.
However, I’m a little impatient, and in the meantime, Google and Wikipedia are right here. What is art, anyway?
Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts, expressing the author’s imaginative, conceptual idea, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.Wikipedia
Ideas alone can be works of art….All ideas need not be made physical.…A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind.Sol LeWitt (1928–2007), American artist, “Sentences on Conceptual Art,” quoted in MentalFloss
There’s a lot of fluff in most definitions of art, and most famous artists appear to have an instinctual feel for the subject. But at its core, art seems to be the expression of an idea. So if a model railroad is to be considered a piece of art, there must be a central idea that is being expressed in form, sound and movement.
Incidentally, prototype modellers like me are on shaky ground when it comes to creating art, at least according to Whistler:
The imitator is a poor kind of creature. If the man who paints only the tree, or flower, or other surface he sees before him were an artist, the king of artists would be the photographer.James McNeill Whistler quoted by MentalFloss
Thank goodness our basement walls constrain our imitations and force us to curate our representations!
We prototype modellers could start with an idea and choose a location to express it, or start with a location and choose to emphasize an idea that could be expressed through its realization. Obviously, being well along with Pembroke, I need to take the latter approach, but fortunately there is still plenty of room to curate the representation to express an idea.
I have a choice of ideas that Pembroke could express:
- The second railway sneaking into an already established city and struggling to capture a piece of a market already dominated by the CPR.
- The growing, bustling manufacturing hub of Pembroke demands a second railway to serve its needs.
Thinking bigger, the second idea reflects the optimism of prime minister Wilfred Laurier at the time I am modelling: “The 20th century shall be the century of Canada and Canadian development.”
This notion has always resonated with me, and if I am careful, I can bend Pembroke to reflect it. My model of Pembroke naturally builds from right to left (unfortunate for us western readers that the land lies the way it does). To the right, we are on the edge of wilderness, but this gives way to development and finally terminates at the bustling modern high street at the far left of the model.
Emphasizing this growth and build, the two bridges across the Muskrat River in the foreground represent the wooden pioneer era at Mary Street, and the masonry developed era at Pembroke Street. I can further emphasize the transition to Canada’s Century with the choice of materials and finish for buildings as we progress from right to left. Perhaps I can evoke bustle with the addition of repetitive, rhythmic elements; there are line poles, fences and even trees to choose from.
I’m probably taking the hobby too seriously.
Image: Wilfred Laurier at Mission, BC. Thanks to wikimedia, copyright expired.