Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Magic Eye

A little while back, I went to hear Sarah Susanka give a talk at Colorado State. She's doing a tour for her latest book, The Not So Big Life. There were big postcards being handed out to each attendee with the above "Magic Eye" image, and it was fun to stare at it as we waited for the talk to begin.

You've seen these images. You unfocus your eyes and they become three-dimensional. What at first seems like a clutter of random colors & shapes turns into something else entirely. The one shown here becomes quite spacious, and, instead of feeling overcrowded, you feel like you have plenty of room to see or navigate through what must be close to two hundred beautiful little balls.

I guess her point was that if you look at things differently, your crowded and hectic life actually offers you plenty of space to breath, observe, choose and enjoy. She talked about her practice of meditation, comparing it to walking along a sidewalk with lots of pedestrian traffic. Just as you don't bump into everyone who's coming toward you, you don't have to identify with every thought that comes into your mind. Then, as we learn to sort our way through the jumble-filled ego, space is created, the atmosphere changes, qualities can come into focus.

Maybe this is what we're looking for when we go choose just a few things and make a composition. Of course, when we go painting, we're looking at a 3-D scene and changing it into 2-D. Maybe that's why what seems like a good idea in the beginning starts to look too busy or uncomfortable somehow. Looking at the scene in a different way, so that you don't try to capture it all, can create space.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ayn Rand, of all people...

Ranting radical that she might have been, Ayn Rand nevertheless understood the spell of plein air painting. Recently, we came across this spot-on description in The Fountainhead of what it's like to be captivated by the process of painting, to be engrossed, to be in the zone.

"He could not say that he liked to paint. It was neither pleasure nor relief, it was self-torture, but, somehow, that didn't matter. He sat on a canvas stool before a small easel and he looked at an empty sweep of hills, at the woods and the sky. He had a quiet pain as sole conception of what he wanted to express, a humble, unbearable tenderness for the sight of the earth around him - and something tight, paralyzed, as sole means to express it. He went on. He tried. He looked at his canvases and knew that nothing was captured in their childish crudeness. It did not matter. No one was to see them. He stacked them carefully in a corner of the shack, and he locked the door before he returned to town. There was no pleasure in it, no pride, no solution; only - while he sat alone before the easel - a sense of peace."

A little later in the book, the architecht Howard Roark explains that his motive and reward is not the money, not the product, not the fame or the effect on people's lives. What means the most to him is the work itself, the doing. To come up with an idea and then take action to make it real.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010