Artful Living: Applying the Five Es

June 29, 2012

Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, Athens

I recently completed Laure Ferlita’s online art class, An Imaginary Trip to Greece, an experience that qualifies as both a simple pleasure and an everyday adventure. One of the main focuses of her classes is learning how to quickly capture a scene on location where conditions can change quickly, you can be interrupted, etc. One tool Laure stresses in class is the “five Es”—concepts that help us figure out what we want to sketch and how we can make each sketch uniquely our own. The Five Es are: Evaluate, Eliminate, Edit, Exaggerate, and Embellish. Always on the lookout for principles that could be useful in living a happier, more artful life, it occurs to me that the five Es could be quite usefull:

Evaluate. Just as an artist evaluates his or her subject to find its most pleasing aspect or determine what is sketchable in the time available, you can evaluate your life to see how it's running. What feels good and bad, how you’re measuring up to your standards, how you’re progressing toward your goals. Taking stock of the who, what, when, where and why of life. In stopping to evaluate, you bring awareness to your life instead of drifting (or charging) around mindlessly.

Eliminate. On location, once you’ve chosen your subject, you want to eliminate anything that doesn’t significantly add to the sketch. You simply won’t have time to get every detail down on paper, so choose your details wisely. In the same way, life is short! After you evaluate it, you might decide you have some things to get rid of. Maybe literally, like that closet of items you want to donate to charity or a stack of old magazines and catalogs you’ll never get around to reading. Maybe it’s a chore or other commitment that has outlived its usefulness. It might even be a person who drags you down every time you’re together. What can you get rid of to make your life better?

Edit. In sketching and life, once you’ve decided what you want to focus on and what you want to eliminate, what’s left? Maybe you don’t want to eliminate something all together, but you can pare it down or simplify it.

Exaggerate. In class, Laure advises students to “use your creative license to exaggerate the elements to make it a great piece of art.” In sketching, that might mean darkening the values, or adjusting the direction of the light hitting your subject to make a more interesting composition. To translate this into life, choose to focus on, encourage and support the positive.

Embelish. The fun part! In art, this is where you add your own style to your sketch. In life, this is where you find ways to make it more beautiful—buy the fresh flowers, eat the chocolate, go see that movie, play, concert or sporting event that interests you. Life should be more than a list of chores and responsibilities.

Just as Laure’s five Es make sketching on location easier and more fun by giving me a framework to help me choose a subject and execute a sketch, using the five Es as a framework for living helps me feel like an artist in my own life. (And thank you to Laure for introducing me to these principles in art and in life!)

Do you have any principles that help you lead a happier, more artful life?

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  1. Great post and great advice! As I read it, I found that these "E's" can be applied to all forms of creativity ... writing, photography, and interior design, as well as art and living a creative life.

    Thanks, Kathy!

    Kathy M.

  2. Excellent post Kathy - I'd not thought about applying those principles to everyday life, but they certainly do apply. Thanks for making me think!

  3. Thanks, Kathy! They really are universal principles, aren't they?

  4. Thank you, Cheryl. Glad you enjoyed the post, as I know you're very familiar with using the principles in your art.

  5. You would think my life would be in better shape considering I teach the 5 E's!!

    Great post, KJ!

  6. I'm so glad you liked the post! And it's entirely possible you haven't tried applying them to your life as well as to your art, even though you did come up with them!

  7. Wow! Your post hit me like a spotlight or something. Things are coming at me so fast that I can't process them all. I've been doing lots of reflection on my life and your observations about Laure's 5 E's hits pretty close to home - just the things that I've had rolling around in my mind. Gee... thanks for connecting the dots for me - I had not yet realized the applicability of the 5 E's to my life in general.

  8. Hi, Claire--glad you liked the post! The idea for applying the five Es to life kind of hit me out of the blue, so I'm glad you're finding the analogy helpful, too. I think you're in a particularly reflective stage of life, so I'm glad you're making the time to do so. Good luck!

  9. Wow - great applications to life! I've been looking myself at the edit and eliminate parts, but I love the embellish aspect!! Too often we forget to consciously choose that which honors or reflects our inner is so busy and we get caught up in survival mode sometimes. Art should apply to life as well!

  10. Yes--it's all to easy to concentrate on purging, but we sometimes forget the embellishing aspect!