Santharian Development

Santharian World Development => Races, Tribes and Clans => Topic started by: Rayne (Alýr) on 02 February 2012, 13:54:21

Title: Elves and Art
Post by: Rayne (Alýr) on 02 February 2012, 13:54:21
There is very little regarding elves on the board. I feel there may be a lot of confusion and misconceptions about elves, and I would like to try to start filling in the gaps, if possible. That's where the writing below started.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where this is going, but hopefully it'll lead me somewhere.  :undecided: Any feedback is helpful--comments, concerns, and particularly questions and things people might want to see or understand regarding elves.

Elves and Art

For a race that lives their lives in accordance with their spiritual belief--one that has, at its heart, a divine being dreaming all the world into creation--art is considered distinctly spiritual. Each elf is a shard of a shard of Ava’s beauty, and in no other way are elves more connected to her than in creative pursuits.

Defining Art:
The elven word for art (avách) is closely related to the words for wind (avásh), beauty (aváth), and of course, the name of Avá. In addition, it is very similar to the elvish verb meaning to create (avachán), and in fact, the elven words for male artist (avachós) and female artist (avachás) also mean male and female creator, respectively. Unlike many elven words, where "aey" is added to the end to add the element of "person" to an existing noun or verb, and which generally implies of "non-elf" (e.g. dél'áey), the words for male and female artist are more closely related to the elvish morphemes for persons (e.g. styrós and styrás for male and female elf).

Art for elves is creating or enhancing beauty in themselves and their surroundings. Beauty, in turn, correlates directly with closeness to nature and the Dream. Pieces of great beauty, however, are not just close to nature, but bring those who experience them close to nature, too. Great art is art that gives greater understanding to the true nature of the Dream: when one experiences great art, they see how all things come in cycles, that all things return from whence they came, that life is beautiful in part because it is so brief (and, for dark elves, how cutting it shorter enhances its beauty), and that the movement from one age to the next is natural and good. Great art gives acceptance, understanding, and peace to those who experience it.

Elves are far more liberal than most races when it comes to what qualifies as art. As among most races, painters, writers, poets, musicians, etc. are generally considered artist—but so are bowyers, cobblers, milliners, and tailors, provided they create their works in alignment with the dream. Generally, anyone that creates can be considered an artist.

While the term "artist" may be used more widely among elves than in many other races (all elves are considered artists in some capacity), it's important to note that it comes with no less respect, honor, and above all, responsibility--one all elves share in their pursuit of beauty. To be an artist means to seek the highest ideal of beauty, which corresponds directly to harmony with nature. Art, in this view, becomes intrinsically tied to what it means to be an elf--for, after all, elves seek to live their entire lives in harmony with nature.

If creating art, from an elven perspective, can be seen as creating beauty that corresponds with nature, then even the smallest aspects of life can hold artistic potential. A turn of the head, a carefree gesture, a musical laugh--all of these are recognized and appreciated as art. Even walking--the movement of the body as one light steps follows the other with the grace of an easy wind--is art. It is in the nature of an elf to see beauty in all things, and enhancing his own beauty often corresponds to enhancing his closeness to nature and his connection to the Dream.

Ubiquity of Art:
For elves, art is everywhere. Good art corresponds with beauty which corresponds to harmony with nature. The best art brings one closer to the nature of the Dream, but not all art need achieve epiphanies--and in fact, art which tries to hard to achieve greatness may be viewed as rebelling against nature rather than working in harmony with it. Art should not fight against the true nature of things, but rather work with them. Therefore, a fine piece of armor is one that is not only skillfully decorated but also does not thwart the natural movements of the wearer. A fine sculpture is one that displays majesty without imposing its presence.

Because of this, art among elves is often very subtle, and while it can be found everywhere, it does not steal attention. It's subtlety aids in its ubiquity, and contributes to the tranquility and mystique of elven cities.

Elven art, like elven belief, is interwoven in every facet of life. Because of this, art in elven culture is considered practical where in many human cultures it may be considered prodigal. All art serves a purpose. In some cases, an artistic creation may have more practical purpose (e.g. armor, weaponry, clothing, a house), in others, it has a spiritual or emotional purpose (sculpture, painting, music, writing). In elven culture, but purposes are judged as being important.

Factors of Beauty
For elves, anything created thoughtfully which harmonizes with nature is considered beautiful; however, certain art forms come closer to this than others. There are a number of qualities:

1) Presence of Movement (physically or temporally): Elven perception of beauty is often tied with the Element Wind. Just as wind moves and flows in constant motion, so too should art. The movement does not necessarily have to be physical, as it might be in dance, but temporal, as well: music is tied to temporal movement, because it must be experience across the movement of time.

2) Spontaneous and Mutable: The Dream is always in flux, and life is filled with spontaneous joys and sorrows which bent and change with the seasons. True art, in the elven belief, should be so changeable: elves often regard gardens as beautiful pieces of art because they are always changing with the season, which may all at once burst into bloom. True art does not rebel against the changing nature of the Dream, but works in tandem with it.

3) Constructed Communally: From their language to the way they live their lives, elves always mind the community. True art is a reflection of, not one voice, but many, so when it comes to, say, the creation of a new tower or building, many hands work to harmonize into one vision. Elven art often draws from many different artistic fields, though the experience of it is often regarded as one--the music, the dance, and the dress come from many different individuals, but all are brought into unity through experience.

4) No Artist/Audience Segregation: Theatre is rather uncommon among elves. There are no stages or concert halls in most elven villages. Rather, are is meant to be inclusive, so that one is both audience and artist in the creation of art. Art brings every voice into the harmony and draws no boundaries within the society, so walls to separate anyone, no barriers to isolate. And besides, art is all the more closer to the true nature of the Dream when it is the work of many.

5) Potentially Indeterminate: No song lasts forever, and no story goes on without end within the confines of the written page. However, they could. Like the Dream, a song might go on and on, if different singers were to take up the melody and prolong the work through the ages, and in this, the art echoes the nature of the Dream. Indeterminacy also pertains to thought: a short poem, well-written, may continually blossom with new meanings and spark new ideas--and this is of greater value than a poem of such length that none could read it!

6) Multisensory: Art is an experience, and the best of art is an experience whereby many voices harmonize many different notes into a song that speaks to the grand complexity and yet singular unity of life. This means drawing from all senses--the sound of music and voices, the sight of flowing bodies and dresses, the smell of flowers and earth, the taste of exquisite foods, and the touch of gentle hands or soft fabrics. The presence of all of these speaks to the true nature of the Dream.

Status of Art Forms
For most elven tribes, music and dance are considered to be the forms of art closest to the nature of the dream. This perception is born out of a number of considerations: first and foremost, music and dance are temporal. Like everything in nature, their time is limited. In music, each note must gleam only for a moment before fading into the silence so that another may take its place. Music also requires movement: with instruments such as the Shyratam and Theratam flutes of the Ylfferhim require the movement of breath to sound, while those such as the Aellenrhim harp require the vibrations of strings. Similarly, dance requires motion of the body, movement across the stage, where each gesture is fleeting and beautiful.

While alone, music and dance are considered beautiful, they are seen as being of greater beauty when combined. Music is played together, with many different instrumentalists joining in to weave layers into song. Dance is done with many different individuals adding complexity. And both music and dance may be combined to heighten the artistic and (fundamentally) spiritual experience.

As with many aspects of elven life, art is often communal and participatory. The concept of 'going to see dance' or 'going to listen to music' in a way that separates into performer and audience is far rarer among elves than humans. This is one reason why theatre, which is also temporal and often communal, is not nearly as popular among elves as humans. The segregation of performer and audience lessens its appeal.

Painting and sculpture are valued in elven societies, though not to the same degree as music and dance. They are motionless art, and as the nature of the Dream tends toward motion, these forms would seem to rebel against this quality. However, while the elves love the continual cycles of the trees, they do not despise the mountains--for all have their place in the Dream. Sculpture can still be found in elven cities, often coupled with fountains or decorated in fabrics that easily catch the breeze in order to add an element of motion to it. This also coincides with the communality of art, with many forms of art and many hands contributing to an artistic experience.

Types of Elven Art
Elves engage in many of the same artistic pursuits as humans: music, dance, painting, sculpture, theatre, etc.; however, they also have forms of art that are particular to their race, or that are given more particular artistic attention than in other races.

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Artimidor Federkiel on 03 February 2012, 04:45:42
A very interesting topic you chose there, Rayne! So here are some thoughts:

I see you already create new words as well which have their origin ultimately in the term "Avá" following the basic idea the "avásh" already derived from there. That's a good idea and also explains why art ranks high up in the elven understanding of life. And anything that focuses on getting a culture elaborated, especially such an important one as the elven, is welcome :)

Maybe you should try to use a proper format for such an entry with own sections for certain aspects of Elven Art, like Origin/Belief (here would fit the links back to Avá, creation etc.), Art Forms etc. As far as art forms BTW are concerned I would assume that the more abstract kinds are the favourite ones of the elves, like music, lyrics, writing in general are closest to spirit and thought, while sculpture or paintings or art which even has practical uses are lesser forms - nevertheless they are all forms of creation and therefore of importance for the elves. Not that the elves would actually rank these arm forms, it's just that they feel closer to Avá in the most spiritual kinds of art.

General thought: I would also say that elven lifestyle probably differs a great deal from a human one, where there are bakers, millers, teachers, soldiers etc., so everyone has one profession. This might not be the case with elves - elves are much closer to, say, lived communism which works much better if you eliminate the elements which make the concept difficult to work for humans. They share a great deal and are much more allrounders than specialized humans. So I would say that art plays a role in every elf's life, and art is a much higher significance than in human societies. And to value art one really needs to experience life in its entirety. So e.g. hunting is also part of a natural life and would need to be learned by any elf.

In this respect I'd also like to mention the Windsingers ( (I regularly do when there's talk about elves), because this idea has also a lot of connotations that are important here. Windsingers sing with the wind, so they perform an art of understanding the spirit of Avá if you so want, as a preparation for their transition to their next life, dive more into existence by accepting their death as part of the world. Understanding the wind pretty much means understanding creation. That seems to be the utmost form of art to me.

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang on 03 February 2012, 07:29:09
I don't know much about elves. But I like Arti's idea that art might not need to be something exclusive, in the sense that art is only created by artists, however widely we define the group. It strikes me that if elves consider art to be a spiritual practice, then it could be the case that the individuality of the artist is considered of minor importance. Purity and meaning would be more important than authorship and display. Would an elven painter sign her work? Would an elven poet care whether his name was remembered? Maybe he wouldn't even care if his  songs were sung, as long as there was singing in the world?

This could be a(nother) useful contrast to humans, maybe, who tend to be driven by aspiration for individual gain and fame.

I also like Arti's idea of the windsingers, in that the 'piece of art' is ephemeral. The windsingers, if I understand them right, have no attachment to their creations that would motivate them to record them, repeat them, or 'perform' them in front of an audience. So that  art has no worldly purpose: it does not serve to 'beautify life', nor to provide moral instruction, nor to entertain.

Just a few ideas. :)

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Ta`lia of the Seven Jewels on 07 February 2012, 02:25:50
Interesting ideas!

I feel unwell though with Art's suggestion that there could be higher and lesser types of art, say, sculptures are less cherished than poems. Could not be a sculpture so intriguing, that it is compared to a poem? Maybe sculptures would be more abstract, though I would not necessarily make a rule out of it.

I would think, that there are, especially when everybody does art, better pieces and not so excellent ones, though all art is in a way 'good' (otherwise it would be no art)

Maybe there are only special kinds of art, no normal  paintings (cabvas..)in the elven woods e.g. . We would need to invent something very different, something which does not exist on earth....

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Athviaro Shyu-eck-Silfayr on 07 February 2012, 03:43:03
"This House Believes In Art For Its Own Sake"

Proposing: Miss. Avalotus, Mr. Federkiel, *Breaks off when he realises everyone is looking at him*

Anyway: I like the idea. A very nice unique way of looking at a very nice and unique race. I like the idea that, at the unmost, everyone regards everything they ever do as art (where art is that which contributes to the beauty of the dream of Ava) or potential art, and so strives to do it as best they can. It's very fitting.

*Pops out again.*

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Valan Nonesuch on 07 February 2012, 06:34:11
The suggestion here then is that elves are a little closer to the root of "art" in that art is something which is done with skill?

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Rayne (Alýr) on 07 February 2012, 13:40:31
I have similar, concerns, Talia, though I see from where Artimidor is coming.

Beauty in the elven sense is tied to the element of wind (mark how closely the words are to one another in the elven tongue!). Elves are likely to judge those things that have wind-like qualities as being more beautiful than those without them. Sculpture is beautiful, but is a motionless art. It is an art of the earth rather than the wind, and while elves will accept its beauty, sculpture rebels against what elves see as the true nature of the Dream: that of motion and movement, be it physical or temporal.

Wind, as an element, represents the movement of the Dream. Like time, the element of wind is in perpetual motion. Music would probably be considered one of the most beautiful expressions of art for elves, because it represents temporal movement. In music, a note sounds and then vanishes so that other notes may come to take its place. So it is with life, in the elven philosophical view. Everything must pass so that something new may come. It is the natural cycle, the nature of the Dream.

Those art forms which are somewhat fleeting--music, dance (which requires motion by definition), poetry (when read aloud)--are all like to be considered more beautiful that those with are more stationary and permanent--sculpture, painting, calligraphy.

Keep in mind that though we view elves as high-minded, they are still mortal and still have their prejudices. Just because elves don't see sculpture as being as beautiful as music doesn't mean that it's not just as valuable as an art form. Elves just have different preferences.

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Bard Judith on 07 February 2012, 16:32:15
{brainstorming from a comfortable Hong Kong park bench on a peaceful tropical day with free government wifi on Bryan's new laptop - aaaaahhhhh......}    :)

Elves 'sculpt' wood using bonsai techniques, gentle coaxing, and magical manipulation to 'grow' the forms they desire.

Leaf, butterfly wing, feather art, bristle and quill sewing (all harvested without harm or from naturally deceased life forms?)

Vine weaving, reed work,  pressed petal and flattened straw all exist on Earth.  Presumably elves would be even defter than humans at utilizing such natural materials.

Something more exotic?  Why not fragrance contests, in which 'perfumers' compete to blend and present different mixtures of scents and aromas?   Light sculptures, using moonbeams or Dalor/Bluespark or luminescent mosses?     Flavour platters which can be sampled and tasted by the audience, rather like a terran chef's amuse-bouche or elegant appetizers?   Sand, salt, and crystal designs poured onto black rock surfaces?    Mazes and labyrinths formed from earth and rock?    Ice and water creations that dance under sun and starlight?    Animals 'trained' to move in beautiful patterns of dance, who cooperate for the love of the movement?  (Dolpholk would gladly work with sea elves to create dramatic displays!)

Just a bit of brainstorming that might move beyond paint and stone.    And I haven't thought about jewelry, personal adornment, body painting, and even nail art.... and the like.

All for now as it's a bit overcast and we need to move along.   Hugs from HK!

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Ta`lia of the Seven Jewels on 07 February 2012, 17:49:04
Rayne, yes, with your broader explanation it makes sense that the elves prefer wind related arts to the more earthen sculptures out of stone especially.

Perhaps we should go as far as saying, that elves don't have any bigger stone sculptures (with exceptions), and if there are, then maybe in combination with other means (a leafy dress for a stone maiden). Or they are, if there any so well done, that they give the impression of floating and weightlessness also.

There could be cherished sculptures also. An assembly of tiny (coloured) birds e.g. which are arranged in trees, maybe even work as chimes. Sculptures must not be out of heavy stone or clay  the elves could have invented our FIMO (

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Bard Judith on 08 February 2012, 01:07:21
Ooo,today just saw something that was not only beautiful and impressive but seems to fit perfectly into this discussion.  In the middle of a pedestrian-only street through the middle of a Kowloon street market, an elderly gentleman had laid out a large blue canvas.  With only a bowl of white sand in front of him, and his outstretched fist,  he was creating beautiful Chinese calligraphic forms - a handful of sand, a deft adjustment of his fingers, and a careful curve of his wrist.  The 'strokes' were tapering,elegant,strong, yet delicate, each character about three inches square - and perfectly shaped.   The fragility but power of the resulting images was spellbinding; only a drizzle of sand, turning into brush strokes, characters, words, sentences.  Amazing.  And somehow, very wind/elven...

Title: Re: Elves and Art
Post by: Rayne (Alýr) on 09 February 2012, 13:26:27
I love your ideas, Judith!--particularly because they include all the senses--not just a few. I particularly like that you've brought up the sense of taste. I could see this, particularly, being important for elves for the same reason music would be important: with taste, as with music, notes of flavor must come delicately harmonized or else the result may be unappetizing.

Sculpting wood is also an interesting idea. It reminds me of what the Injera Elves are known for:
... their ability to train and grow their surroundings into wonderful structures and housing has created some beautiful forms. The natural formations of bark and branch are augmented by specifically trained vines and flowering plants. This combination creates a natural, yet beautiful and detailed environment.

This, of course, is in their Housing section--and while this art form can certainly relate to architecture, I like that you have expanded it. It's definitely something I will be thinking about as I write this entry.

The calligraphy with sand is also interesting. It reminds me of the Sandpainting ( I first learned about when studying Indian mysticism, though I suppose it exists in many other cultures as well. I like the impermanence of the art, but I'm not sure if this form is necessarily very elven.

I'm still struggling over the effect of art on the artist. Art is always a labour of love, but should elven art be as full of difficulty as some arts are? I think, for example, about calligraphy by sand (which seems meditative but relatively easy) versus sandpainting (which takes many hours and leaning over and precisely applying sand). I guess I question whether life as struggle should enter prominently in the elven system of belief. The message behind sandpainting seems to be "You work very hard to create something very beautiful but brief, and this is the true nature of life." I'm not sure this feels elven to me... what do others think?

I'm glad you brought up the degrees of beauty, Talia. It reminds me that this needs to factor into the entry, because on the surface, it seems strange. I love the idea of 'combinations'--sculptures in stone dressed in gowns of leaves. I need to mention somewhere in the entry how art, just like many things in elven societies, is often communal.