The Tonalist Cloud

Have you ever played with Wordle? I first discovered Wordle years ago. and I’ve had a lot of fun playing with it. It’s a good way to pinpoint the important elements of a topic, or to focus on specific thoughts in our heads.

Write out a paragraph or two, copy and paste it into a Wordle, and see what comes out! You can have fun changing colors and fonts and even the shape of your “word cloud” — that’s what Wordle is all about, you see. I should have explained that at the start. It takes the words you enter and arranges them in a fanciful way, adding emphasis to words used more frequently, minimizing those of lesser importance.

As I study tonalism in art, I came across a beautiful list of the elements considered most essential in the style. Immediately I headed for Wordle and created this word cloud:

You’ll quickly see that with the exception of space, all words have equal weight in this cloud. Even from this first, very simple Wordle, I know that space is important, that one of my first considerations should be how I compose a scene.

But I didn’t stop there. I wanted to explore more of the qualities associated with tonalism, so I copied several paragraphs from The Secret of Tonalismone of the sites I’m using for my research. I deleted the insignificant words — a, an, the, for example — so that I could get a better look at the qualities that are part of the tonalist art style.

Here is the resulting word cloud:

Again, space is prominent, but other qualities are emerging here, such as evocative, spiritual, and natural.

As I continue my 31-day index card project of tonalist-inspired oil paintings, I will be giving more thought to the ideas expressed in this word cloud. Day by day I’ll be taking a topic from the cloud and exploring it more at-depth in my studies and my art.

From time to time, I’ll probably make more word clouds, tooThey are such fun to play with, and such a good way to visualize our thoughts and feelings. Clouds may seem like mere wisps of thoughts, but truly we can find a lot in the clouds!

For me, these simple word clouds are much like a road-map for me to follow as I explore the world of tonalist art. It’s a process that will continue for quite some time, and I’m happy to have each of you here to follow along with me as I learn and grow as an artist.


    1. It’s really a fun way to explore different concepts. Word clouds like this always help me focus on what’s most important. That’s one of my biggest problems, I’ve come to realize. I get so caught up with so many different possibiities that I end up almost paralyzed, unable to figure out where to go or what to do. A word cloud like this lets me focus on a single topic… allowing less important ideas to stay in the background. It’s really helping me a lot with this project.


    1. I’ve never been good at “mind maps” or other techniques, but I can do “word clouds” — and for me, they are very helpful. A word cloud really enables me to “FOCUS” on what’s most important. It gives me a good starting point, and then shows me how to view other ideas. I love word clouds!

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