Time and Space

This week will be a little different than the previous weeks.

A Philosophical Aside

I had a really difficult time with the topic this week… the matter of time-and-space always turns into a Mobius strip for me. To be honest, I have more questions than answers about time and space in art and I’ve decided I’d be doing you a disservice by pretending to give you “the answers.”  Part of what I know from being a practicing artist  for the last 20+ years is that if you go into the studio thinking you have all the answers, you’re doing it wrong. This is one way in which art is a very different discipline than many others.  Ultimately, your questions are more important than the product you create (of course, I can really only grade your products). Art is a kind of discovery about the world around you and the world inside of you.  Art is a way of answering questions about the world around you.  

I see that plate of fruit on the counter, but what is it I  really  see? Light? Color? Shadow? Shape? Texture? Volume? Space? A metaphor for prosperity? A symbol of my childhood? A reference to Cezanne? I can’t see the back of the fruit, so how do I know it’s there? Wait, is the fruit even important at all? Maybe what’s behind the fruit is more important? The wallpaper in the kitchen? The pattern? The empty space between the counter and the wall? Where am I putting my frame? Maybe I should include the cat on the stool? Maybe these objects are all distractions and what I really care about is the way the color of the oranges clashes with the greens and purples of the wallpaper? What time of day is it? Can I evoke that through abstractions or do I have to represent the objects in space?

One question leads to another and if you’re lucky, making art will become a way of opening up the  world for you so that you see beyond “things” and begin to realize just how rich the fabric of reality is. Art has certainly done that for me. Even when the painting itself fails (and I’ve been failing a lot lately!) the expereince of making art is what matters the most.  Even those artists who are practicing illustrators are still asking questions about the narrative world they’re trying to depict rather than the tangible world in front of them. (Doc Oc is a bad guy, so how do I show that? What does it mean to be a “bad” guy? What was his childhood like? If he’s partly like an octopus, what characteristics does an octopus have that he will share? Does the reader need to see all of him or can I just show one piece of him? etc…)

For this week, I’m going to be asking you to do a few exercises that are meant to help you really ask these kinds of questions. So remember… the QUESTIONS are important this week.  



Learning Objectives

  1. Ask open questions about the role of time and space in art.    
  2. Demonstrate your thoughts on those questions as they appear in the art of others.  
  3. Create your own work that demonstrates the inquiry into the concepts of space and time.

Space and Time

Like nearly everything we’ve discussed so far, time and space can be thematic, but also technical:  

Time in art  can be  actual time  or  implied time.    Actual time includes time-based work and media, artwork that changes through time, and the effect of time on artwork and how that affects its meaning. Implied time can be represented in the captured moment, an illusion of time passing, or the evidence of time already past.

The images to your right are examples of works where time and space are both implied…though you could argue that all art deals with actual time since all art changes with time.  

Although you don’t have the audio to accompany these slides, you may find them useful in helping you think about how space and time work in art.  

Sophia.org discussion of time in art.




Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” a work with a theme that is clearly “time.” What is he saying about time? Why title it like he did?

M. C. Escher’s “Day and Night.”  Space is both a theme and a technical feature of the work. What are the specific techniques he employs here that force us to accept multiple spatial perspectives at once?  

Leonard Schlain: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light

This guy rocked my world about 20 years ago. I think some of his ideas still hold up. He discusses the parallels between scientific understanding of the world and artistic understanding. Worth taking an hour out of your day for this one. If for any reason that he shows numerous famous images.  

Visualizing Time & Space: 19th Century Connections between Photography, Science, and  

More connections between art and science here. Short and very interesting.  

Elements of Art: Space

KQED Arts video. Short and condensed duscussion of space.  

Technical Know How

**This week I’m offering up a random selection of videos on Photoshop and Illustrator. You have a lot of creative freedom this week, so use any of these techniques!


An analog method for depicting movement in time and space.  

Dispersion Effect  

Simple instructions for a cool effect.  

Only for the Serious

Loooong tutorial, but you will learn a LOT.  

Pen Tool in Illustrator

A few of you have told me you’re still struggling with the pen tool in Illustrator. Practice is really the only thing that will help you learn to use it better, but this guy explains it pretty well.  



20 Questions:  Ask 1 unique question about time and space and how they appear in art for each pin on your Pinterest board this week for a total of 20 questions. Write the question beneath each pin. If you need an example, take a look at my pins for this week. And I’ll warn you that this isn’t an easy exercise. You might need to break this up across a few days.  

⊕ For this week, create a Pinterest  Board called “Time and Space” and add 20 images to that board using the guidelines above. Submit your link in the form below.

Share and Discuss

Share your thoughts on this topic in Slack.  

Emulate and Create



Using the work by either Salvador Dali or M. C. Escher above, use Photoshop, Illustrator, or any Adobe mobile app to trace some portion of the image. Then, delete the original photo and turn the tracing into a work of your own.  


For this assignment, choose one of your questions from your Pinterest board, try answering it for yourself, and then create a work of your own that attemps to depict what you’re thinking. An example I have is below. When I made it (it’s a Photoshop painting from 2014) I was thinking a lot about the way time passes in the Arctic, and especially wondering if the behavior of certain animals (diurnal, nocturnal, hibernating, migrating, etc) would reveal anything. This is, of course, a complicated example and yours need not be complicated, but please  make sure you explain your work in the comments field of the submission form.