art ideas reading

Where Do You Focus?

I’ve been reading Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life” as part of my Year of Creative Reading. I’m not ready to report on the book as a whole because I haven’t finished it yet, but I do want to cover a topic brought up by Tharp in Chapter 3.

Tharp discusses an artist’s creative DNA, which includes an artist’s preferred focal length. She says, “All of us find comfort in seeing the world either from a great distance, at arm’s length, or in close-up.” (pg. 37) Some of us create big, sweeping novels or painting that can only be described as epic. Others prefer works in a middle distance, and still others work on a small scale, looking closely at the details.

Miniaturists fall into this last focal point category. As do I. It wasn’t until reading this section of Tharp’s book that I even considered which focal length I prefer. Give me a close-up, especially in photography. Let me work in picayune detail, stitch-by-stitch in crocheting, embroidery, hand-sewing. I even write in close-ups, using the particulars of a character’s life or of a community to illustrate a larger whole. The epic is contained in the minutiae as far as I’m concerned.

It’s a very interesting way to analyze one’s work and it explains what I’m attracted to, what I’m trying to capture, when I’m creating.

How about you? What focal length are you most attracted to? (You don’t have to consider yourself an artist to be attracted to a particular focal length.)

Tiger lily, Mary Warner, 2015.
Tiger lily, Mary Warner, 2015.