The other night I went to an art exhibit at a gallery in Watkins Glen, NY. I had a painting displaying there and I asked my niece, Joyce, if she would go with me. Joyce is one of those easy going people who's ready for anything. At 21, she unknowingly possesses a kind of understated coolness which is the best kind of cool to have.
The gallery was small but full with art in many different mediums. There were oil and watercolor paintings, ink and pastel, glass, pottery, sculpture, silk screen, and collage. Joyce and I made our way around the displays twice. It was on the second tour that I discovered some small, carved rocks that I had missed the first time around. I like rocks in general, but here were some rocks with faces carved into them.
Most people would look at a rock and just see rock, but not this artist. He saw something that didn't exist yet, but could. Every piece of art has a story. The artist's life is in there, wrapped up somewhere in the work. Sometimes the artist communicates it in words, but most often he doesn't. The viewer is left to ponder the piece in front of him, and to wonder why it evokes the kind of internal response that it does. Successful art is about connecting. I don't necessarily mean that it has to be with the artist. It's connecting with yourself. People look at art in different ways, they interpret it differently. It means different things to different people. But, when you view a piece of art and something happens inside of you, you know it. Maybe it's caused by the color scheme, or light, or subject matter. Whatever it is, it evokes a response, a feeling, or something deeper that you might not be able to express. Somehow, art helps you connect with yourself. It's kind of like when people say they connect with nature. I think they are really connecting with themselves in nature. And in this fast paced culture where we can lose ourselves in busyness, entertainment, and social media, anything that helps us connect with ourselves is a gift.
I was fortunate to find out something about my sculptor from the gallery owner. She told me that he was local and had been an art teacher in the high school for years. He traveled and brought back rocks from around the world. The man was now in his 80's and there were only a handful of his rocks available for purchase. His family didn't want him to sell any more. Hearing that was enough for me. I had just gotten paid and had a little money to burn. "Ring me up that rock!" I told her.
My rock sculpting gentleman wasn't there that night, but I wish he had been. I would have made a point of meeting him, shaking his hand, and saying, "Thank you for the gift."
The next time you see a piece of art that really grabs you and you're struggling with whether you should buy it or not; go ahead and just do it. It's worth the connection.
Perspective has a Latin root meaning "look through" or "perceive," and all the meanings of perspective have something to do with looking. I like that. If you observe the world from a bird's perspective, you see through the bird's eyes. In drawing, perspective gives your drawing the appearance of depth or distance.
Perspective is the technique used to represent a three-dimensional world (what we see) on a two-dimensional surface (a piece of paper or canvas) in a way that looks realistic and accurate, as we see it in nature. Perspective is used to create an illusion of space and depth on a flat surface.
Young children, while being creative, have little understanding of perspective. Ask a 5 year-old to draw a box and she will probably draw a square with height and width. However, someone with perspective would add depth to the picture and create a cube.
Perspective is also the relationship of objects to each other and to the picture as a whole. If you want to paint a landscape with a field in the foreground, trees in the mid-ground and hills in the background, you will have to create the spatial relationships of the objects to each other - their distance from each other in terms of size and the effects of distance in their appearance. For example - the colors of hills in a background seem to fade. They get lighter as they get farther away. Incorporate this into your painting and you give the illusion of depth and distance.
There are aspects of gaining perspective in art that can be translated into gaining perspective in life. I like finding depth and meaning in what I do, where I am, and who I interact with. I'm big on purpose. I find that when I lose perspective, I tend to lose my sense of purpose too. Here's an example: I'm a GED instructor at a correctional facility. Last week, I had one student blow off class. All the hard work we had done didn't matter to him, nor did the fact that the test was only three weeks away. He was done because he didn't feel like doing the work. I got mad and then I got discouraged. Was I beating my head against a wall? Were my attempts at making a difference futile? Should I quit? These questions got me in a funk, and it wasn't until the next day that things started turning around. I was driving to work when this thought meandered into my consciousness. I had focused on one student who blew me off and I had lost sight of the four other students who were sitting in class, working hard, and making me proud! In that little moment I gained perspective. Nothing earth shattering, but important to me nonetheless.
Another definition of perspective is this: the ability to see all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship.
The ability to see all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship - seeing the whole picture.
Perspective is one of those words that's a little dull like the words "objectivity" and "sensible". It doesn't dazzle like "ephiphany" or "paradigm shift." For all that, it's hard won and wears well for the long ride.
I thought I'd write a few thoughts on art, life and whatever else comes to mind.