Making Evocative Images or What Makes for Evocative Images


Actually I just discovered this forum. Guess I have been delinquent in visiting CGTalk galleries for longer than I thought. Been reading the Wings forum if and when I get over here at all. The forum has an interesting theme and one dear to my heart. It’s of no surprise to me that the always innovative Ms Van Der Byl is a part of it. The energy and positivity of this person inspires me. And I am old enough to be her father,… grandfather even. As I said, the premise as introduced by Mr Snoswell,… crediting the emotional content of images, the content of images beyond technical accomplishment, and the technical and creative aspects that underlie emotionally evocative images, interests me a great deal. I have tried to introduce these ideas into cg art making discussions at different times myself. I think that it is a very tricky thing to pull off. In fact I think that cultivating a sustained discussion about the evocative side of artmaking is every bit as difficult as is pulling off an evocative piece of art. For one thing, critical commentary is pretty boring reading unless truly elevated by an artist of the form.

I think that it takes a big effort on the part of everyone, artists and commentors, and will probably always be limited to a dedicated group who value it enough in the first place to sustain the effort. It may be a rare thing to find participants dedicated to a sustained overarching commitment, purely out of overarching enthusiasm for Mr Snoswell’s ideals. Still, it seems like it is the logical next step.

I tried writing a few responses on some recent threads. I enjoyed the license that the “serious criticism” moniker seems to offer of being able to be quite direct and offer a balance of negative and/or positive reactions without being quite so socially formal and guarded as one might be otherwise. But equally I was left unsatisfied by my own comments. I value the potential for crediting the communicative side of a work, but feel sadly ill-equipped to with the language to do so.

One question that arouse again for me as I was writing my little critiques was the question of how in the most general sense you go about making an evocative artwork. Must you have that intention from the beginning? Would such self-consciousness of purpose really prevent any chance of it or is it in fact the necessary component?


I tried responding to this the other day but was having problems with my connection so I was unable to.

What is pretty ironic about this forum and this initiative is that I, myself, have yet to make any piece of 3D that I would consider “art” let alone “emotive”. Lately I have been feeling a strong desire to create something with meaning to it and have been spending a great deal of time wondering what I can make. And in light of this I would feel inclined to say that indeed an emotional message in an image is something that is there from the very beginning. I personally feel that there should be an intention, because without the intention, the artist is not contributing anything of their soul (for lack of a better word) into the piece.

However, as an outside viewer, I think it is very difficult to fully understand and feel the exact emotion that an artist was conveying with the piece. And even so… I think that “conveying” an emotion and actually creating a work of art while feeling a certain emotion are really two different things. It is simpler for a viewer to sense an intentionally conveyed emotion than it is for a viewer to look deep into an image and sense something of the mindset that the artist was feeling at the time that the work was created.

Look at advertising - this is a medium that plays on emotive ideals and subtexts. Creatives have intentionally inserted emotional feeling into the medium for it to be effective. Can this be classified as emotive art? Or is it flakey pretentious crap that serves no purpose other than soulless consumer-driven intentions?
On the other hand, an artist who is feeling sad may be inspired to create an artwork expressing this emotional state, and the final piece may not express this emotion very literally or very obviously. If the emotion is not blatantly obvious, does the piece lose credibility as an emotive artwork? A viewer looking at the piece may even sense something of their own state of mind in the piece, so does this change the emotive message or does this make it even more effective as an emotional piece, in a much broader spiritual sense? Three different people could look at a plain yellow canvas and feel three very different things, depending on their experiences in life, their ideals and their general state of mind and being.

I think the whole idea of evocative imagery is a fascinating subject and personally I have to admit that I tend to remain relatively reserved in my public commentary of it as I feel that the internet is not necessarily a place that I want to share potentially intimate ideas and thoughts of my own.

So in answer to your question of this thread, I think that the entire idea behind evocative artwork is such a personal one that it may be beyond mere discussion on a forum. As someone who has grown up with a love of visual arts as well as music, I definitely know emotion when I see or hear it but sometimes find that analyzing it almost ruins that initial pure feeling.

And here is something else to consider… as I mentioned before, I have been feeling a strong desire to start making “art” as opposed to just what I would consider “work”. Now, all my life I have always found that one of my greatest sources of inspiration is music. I love it. I cannot live without it. And as I have gotten older I have gravitated heavily towards music with (what I would consider to be) depth. Music that has a message. Has meaning. Comes from within. I always work to music and when I have been thinking about the kinds of themes that I would like to portray visually, I tend to think of emotive content from the music that I love - lines and titles or even just themes from songs or compositions that moved me in some way. Now, if I were to go ahead and do that, would I be expressing emotion of my own? Or have I simply stolen a thought, an idea, and presented it as my own? Would it be truly emotive, even if the piece did indeed express feeling and/or instill an emotional reaction in viewers, if the emotion did not originally come from me? Or, have I felt inspired to create the piece because I also feel the emotion that the music communicated? And in doing so, have I actually evolved the idea and continued the communication?


An extremely interesting subject, in my opinion. I, as well, almost always listen to music while working or “creating”. I try to use it to set a mood and atmosphere that removes my own inhibition, frees mind, and inspires me to create. Most often I use music that is in line with what I am creating (for example historical content - music from corresponding time), but sometimes I purposely use contrasting music. On my latest project which is on stone, bronze and iron age, I used a recent piece of house music by Dimitri from Paris, to breath life into an animation of a dancer, which was depicted by carving into rock about 6 000 years ago. The idea seemed wacky at first but it turned out successful and even somewhat logical :wink: At the time of creation, they most likely used modern music of that time, so to get a similar intention through today we should really use music that conveyes a modern feeling. The director wanted to remove “history” feeling and focus on the story and feelings told by the carvings.

Apart from being an atmosphere creator, as Leigh describes music can be so inspiring that one wants to portray it visually. Taking into account what many artists can do with today’s tools, I believe this is a very exciting area. There are so many factors and room for interpretation and ideas, so if you took one piece of music and let a million artists portray it visually you would get a million different works. Since the message in the music itself is often quite diffuse and open for interpretation, it would be hard for an external viewer to make the connection between the visual and the music unless confronted with it. And I am sure that other music, your own experiences and ideas would come out and shape the piece as well. All artists are affected by inspirational sources, and you don’t always have to present them. Your own inspiration and skill will be crucial in the final piece. And, the ideas and message is rarely exclusively unique (how many songs cover the subject of sadness, unresponded love and so on).

That said, you could of course go official with that you are portraying a certain piece of work. This would maybe look like it it less of an “art” work, but you would nevertheless have to use your own emotion and interpretation to make it really good. It’s not like you are following a recipe or manual ;), or that the music is neutrally processed into a corresponding piece of visual information through your brain and the tools :wink:

“Art” is a diffuse concept, and it is easy to be inhibited by thinking of it, which is funny as true dis-inhibition and innovation is required to create art. Among my friends with solid art education, I see this ability (to be able to routinely think out totally crazy ideas, without being shy about it) and that has shaped my picture of what art is about. The art they are doing, and which I often think is really exciting, seem to me like 98% idea and 2% “production skills”. Sometimes they just formulate he idea and let other people put together the physical piece. For many CG workers, on the other hand, the relationship can be the opposite as the high requirements on the production side has made many into experts on realisation and production, while leaving less time to the art part of it. To a point where we even are unused to talking about it.

Since many CG artists of today have exceptional skills to realize their ideas, the potential is large if talents only get the time and inspiration to let out their “art” side.

Leigh: Art or not, go ahead and create and see how it turns out. With as little inhibition and compromization as possible. Do something really crazy! Others’ expectations are high of course ; so I can imagine that would hold you back as well.

I agree that creating really good art often involves a degree of self exposure, that I wouldn’t like to discuss on the internet to deeply either. I enjoyed the reflections of the first poster jrcsurvey on this.

Now the music playing in the hotel lobby where i’m sitting is getting really irritating, to a point that I have to stop writing. Music can be bad for you as well you see :wink:



Thanks for the thoughtful response and brave effort to engage my question. Thoughtful reponse takes time, a lot of time. (connection probs aside.:))
Obviously it is easiler to ask these sort of big, generalised questions than it is to answer them.

The fascination for me with cg art stems from a number of places. That it resembles folk art more than high art, is one reason, and that it reinvests pictorial/narrative art with a new relevency, is another.

By folk art I mean that it addresses the popular culture concerns and apes the image making means of the majority rather than epitomising the effete preoccupations of an elite few. But it is the folk art of the media-savy in a media culture. (A media culture that was once exclusively a “broadcast center” culture but now is shifting to also include a decentralized ability to share ideas with an amplified audience.)

By the reinvestment of pictorial and narrative art I mean that there is with cg a return to the expressive means of Renaissance art.

This makes for a potentially interesting mix as we stuggle with the concerns of a modern age. Leaving the whole artist versus illustrator question aside, clearly cg art and its tools are rooted in developments of technology driven by the expressive (in the most general sense) needs of the movie industry. So the aims and means of movie making are the de facto model for what is “evocative” and how we approach it. Cg artists like all artists start out aping a shared set of ideas for inspiration. I think that My Snoswell begins wisely here cautiously limiting his initial scope to the pragmatism of illustration and movie making. But I sense that that may be only a beginning point.

I agree with you that most of the time evocative art comes from expressive intentions. But how we think of, cultivate, and ultimately deliver on that intentionality is what I hoped to draw attention to.

One idea for a thread: identify the one artwork you have experienced that absolutely bowled you over expressively.

Not the one you think makes you cool in everyone’s eyes, not the one you think you should be responding to, not the one your favorite art teacher liked, not even the one that inspires you latest line of creative work, but the one, so far, that has absolutely bowled you over. I know which one it would be for me. Donatello’s Magdalene.
I can’t imagine I am the only one. I was backpacking through Europe which I turned into one continuous museum experience. I saw artwork after artwork that moved me expremely, evocked the loftiest ideals in my heart and the most extraordinary sensations in my eye. I wasn’t even aware of the Magdalene from art history courses. I happened onto it almost by accident. It hit me hard,… Very. Very. Hard. As far as I can tell it has had nothing to do with the “artwork” I eventually ended up making. But it leaves no doubt in my mind that such a artwork could never have been achieved without a cultivated, honed, and self-aware intention to exress.

I think the may be other ways also that we can use words to explore and understand how we respond to and use pictorial art in our present and make some attempt to understand what visions we share and what means we have available to evoke them.

You interest in and thoughts on music suggested a couple of ideas. It is easy to think of music as epitomising emotion in the abstract. It obviously evidences inner life. You worry about stealing something if you work creatively in dialogue with music. What is interesting to me about music is the idea of it “resonating” with someone’s inner being. And the idea of that resonance being passed along in the same way that the internet as decentralized communication.

You do not feel you have created any art in a trancendent sense. I have not kept up with everything you do but I agree that you have gotten greater amounts of feedback from you technical efforts. I believe there was onetime an involvement with texturing someone else’s model? You got a lot of very positive feedback there. There are also the technical writings. Again, bigtime feedback. But I also remember a contest entry that involved a tree with some swords stuck in it? I remember I thought it was brilliant in concept at the time. Very emotive in fact. Your ultimate delivery on that concept could have been more, I thought, but you got a fair amount of positive response. Another time you showed a lot of talent modelling an orc was it? So you are an impressive mix. Obviously high verbal-conceptual ability mixed with this enormous feel for texture and tactility (modelling). You have an good ability to identify what it is that attracts you to this medium. That is what I would hope you continue to explore and the art will probably follow. As was suggested by Backenbotten, the pressure not to fail is probably the toughess thing for you to overcome here.




Beautiful inventory or your use of music in the creative process and how others could use it also. There is little I can add.

Music has an extraordinary ability to transport our consciousness, open up our awareness, sensitivity, and expecially to put us in touch with our emotions. And not merely the base emotions of anger, hatred, and reptilian appetites,… but complex emotion, elevating emotion, the emotion of higher purpose, or caring connection to the world.

“How we connect to the world”, it was once put to me by a film professor, “is the primary source for meaning”.



I cry at movies. I admit it. I’m a male and I love to cry at movies. During the climax scene of Beauty and the Beast, I would have bawled if it wouldn’t have made too much noise. And this, an animated picture! Bits and paint!

Evocative visuals are few and far between. When you find one, it thrusts you somehow into a situation that tells you without words about someone else, about their longings or their frustrations or how they feel. It does it so well, and usually so simply, that it arrests you.


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