The fall semester begins in two weeks and I’m trying to find a starting point/points for art-making this academic year. (It’s my last one, which means thesis time.) This is what I was thinking about/where I had landed by the time my end-of-semester review came around last spring.
I. new glasses
In first grade, I was prescribed glasses for the first time. As Mom drove us home in the green minivan, I remember raising and lowering the frames from my eyes and reveling in the newfound crispness as it passed by. There were trees and a field of tall grass and telephone wires, and all of a sudden this world of soft color had brand new sharp edges. Continue reading “learning to see”
Appreciating the in-betweens seemed easier in Europe. Here I tend to move with calculation: settling into routes that are fastest, most efficient, most effective.
This summer, I rode high-speed trains and walked quickly but traveled with a spirit of slower awe, observing intensely the things around me, intending to see in a way that would do the surrounding beauty justice.
Noticing is an art, and art is rooted in practice. I’m still learning to see well.
A note to self:
Look up and around, notice.
Make observations of beauty part of your everyday.
Savor the in-betweens.
Remember that one time we almost didn’t see the Sistine Chapel? (It’s a fun story.)
“That one time” happened less than three days ago and now I’m up at 7:30am-feels-like-1:30pm, 20 hours of travel removed from Rome and it kind of doesn’t feel real.
But, it was. And it was so worth it because the Sistine Chapel was perhaps the most overwhelmingly beautiful thing I have ever observed. The paintings – oh! yes, the paintings; but also the deep commitment among the men who took it from idea to reality, and the weight of the fact that I know this God whose story is laid out so beautifully before the eyes of thousands of people every day. I know this God and he’s infinitely more beautiful than even the grandest examples of human creation. He’s the origin. I, a self-supposed lover of Beauty, forget that far too often.
Standing, eyes upward, in the chapel with these things in my head, it was all I could do not to weep for the sheer too-big-for-words beauty of it all. In the end, sure, it would have been sad to visit Rome and miss the Sistine Chapel, but it’s heartbreaking to consider a life without any acknowledgement of ultimate Beauty.
One thing I have asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
A lot of art education is process-oriented: if you want to paint, you have to pick up a brush. “Learning by doing.” Art history courses supplement this through their review of what has been considered great art over the centuries, the fundamental principles/elements of art and design, and the process of critical visual analysis. While these topics are all important, projected slides, textbook reproductions, and digital images simply can’t compare to experiencing art in person – when and where you can actually see the creative and technical processes as they originally unfolded.
I don’t know how to describe the feeling of standing inches away from some of the greatest paintings I’ve ever seen, noticing nuances in color and brushwork that I didn’t know existed. Or of taking in works of art created hundreds of years ago by someone who is a fellow artist, whose drive to create beauty gives us common ground in spite of the centuries that separate us.
It’s overwhelming, mysterious, beautiful, and proves to me again that art is powerful.
If you want to learn to paint, I think it’s absolutely necessary to spend time breathing the same air as the works that inspire you. See, appreciate, understand, disagree, wonder, feel. And then: create.