So why is art nouveau smoke shaped differently than art deco smoke?
|Art nouveau smoke (by Rene Bull)|
|Art deco smoke (by Leslie Ragan)|
And while we're at it, why is Japanese smoke shaped differently than Italian smoke?
|Japanese smoke (by Uttagawa Sadahide)|
|Italian smoke (15th century)|
Of course, it's not all the fault of science. Some artists must've slept through physics class because they don't remember the difference between a gas and a solid:
|Mud slide smoke (by Frazetta)|
Even worse, some mistake a gas for a liquid:
This is all very confusing. Smoke is supposed to have no shape, yet here we see all these strong opinions about the shape of smoke, and none of them match.
And if that weren't bad enough, along comes that smart alec Richard Thompson and picks "all of the above" for the shape of smoke:
|Explosion in a shape factory (by Richard Thompson)|
There are artists who love to paint billowing smoke with rich, blended colors:
At this point, I'm so baffled I can't even remember what I started out to say about smoke. My idea is gone in a puff of I don't know what.
So let's just end this way: when artists set out to affix a shape to something that has no fixed shape, they are really transforming a gas into a solid. This task gives artists a broader license than they'd have when transforming one solid into another (for example, capturing a face on canvas). It can provide a Rorschach test for artists who choose to take it.
As you can see from the pictures above, artists who make full use of their broader license, rather than relying on conventional symbols for smoke, can achieve some pretty interesting results.