Saturday, February 16, 2013

Seeing with an Artist's Eye

One of the more rewarding aspects of a renewed period of intensive art-making for me is the reactivation of what I think of my "Artist's Eye". I'm spending so much more time looking carefully at objects, arrangements, the details of the landscape around me and then constantly evaluating my adaptation and depiction of it in my paintings. And like any other skill - or even any muscle - practicing the habit of mind, the evaluative concentration brings so much more into focus.

Athletes who train and musicians who practice find that their skills improve. The same is true of artists, of course, but the specific phenomenon that I'm experiencing is a sort of enhanced visual and evaluative state of mind. A walk through the woods or a walk around the house can lead me to a state where I'm constantly looking for art and design all around. This is perhaps not such a welcome "distraction" while I'm driving... but it's a vast improvement over the blinkered sort of tunnel vision that many urban dwellers develop as a coping mechanism, a way to filter out the visual "noise" and become less visible in the midst of density. Everywhere I go now, I'm scanning my environment, voraciously gathering data about line, texture, balance, depth, color, contrast and all the other elements of design - and then trying to find a place to file it all in my mind. My hope is that the more I do this, these elements will find ways to blend together harmoniously and present themselves effectively in my work with increasing regularity. So far I seem to be making "design salad" rather than "design soup" - collections of these elements side-by-side rather than always producing a rich and flavorful stew with lots of interactions between the elements. But it is satisfying to see the journey, the process at work, to feel it grow and change my perspective inside.

Perhaps the best example I can offer of this enhanced Eye comes from a recent afternoon at a local pond. Even in the city, and here in the depths of a Boston winter, adventurous types can hike into the urban wilds of Allandale Woods and find a picture perfect and hidden pond for skating - as if we lived in some idyllic countryside of long ago or far away. While the rest of my family carved arcs in the ice, I used my phone to capture the lines and shadows, the traces of the paths left by them and the weak but beautiful late afternoon sun. I don't mean to claim any of these as Art on their own necessarily - but to me they are evidence of a mind and an Eye seeking the essence of, well, just that. Perhaps they illustrate what I mean.