Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Creativity and Seeing

When you think of it, folks in the blogosphere are creative people. It takes a creative whim to want to write something intended for a general or unknown audience. Whatever may be your “homepage”, everyone posts stories and pix about their lives onto their little piece of the cloud, but in most “social networks”, folks are addressing a specific invited group of family, friends and acquaintances.

Searching for red 128

The original thought here was to compose an entry encouraging you to embrace your creative side, and express it in any way you can. It’s an ancient instinct for humans, (an instinct shared by a number of animals that decorate their nests). Go all the way back to face painting and cave paintings and you see a legacy of the human desire to create something. Something with a message and value to others. Something that will connect us to another human being brain-to-brain and heart-to-heart. Something that will exist and speak for us, stand on its own, even if we are absent or long-gone.

Language, of course, made it possible for us to do this with the characters on the printed page. To describe joy and beauty and anguish and heartbreak, humor and sadness, wonder and imagination.

Many folks have a great apprehension against calling themselves writers or artists. I refer to myself as “amateur”, in the sense that my artistic pursuits do not achieve widespread success in the forms of notoriety, acclaim or income. (Well, I did make money playing in a few bands and making signs in my younger days.) Okay, let’s say no great success or commercial success or whatever you want to call it, but does that mean the art is any less art?

Well, some of that’s a topic for debate another time. What I’d like to share at this time is the wonderous influence art has had in my life and my perception, even my understanding of human perception. And fish perception if you lump fly tying in there. Some people are artists at fly tying. I’m not even amateur. More like a hack. But seriously, the French call it “to fool the eye”, and I guess if you can “fool the eye” of a rainbow trout, you’re an artist!

October rain

So here’s your “Seeing” test. Okay, it’s not really a test at all, it’s just an observation and study of your brain’s powerful perception of the real world. One at a time, imagine these plants:

A tulip.

A maple tree.

A lilac bush.

Are you imagining what these look like in your mind’s eye? Go back if you must. It’s not a trick or a race.

How about a rose bush?

Marigolds.

Pumpkins.

Okay, okay. Enough of the test. You were supposed to be imagining these plants. Pumpkins was a great last-minute thought. Did you see orange pumpkins? What color were the roses? How about the lilacs? What kind of birds are below?

Always leaving.

If you thought these were Canada geese, you are correct. Okay, so how do you know they’re Canada geese when all you can see are these black specs? (My kids said every photo I ever took of a bird showed a speck.)

Was the tree full of leaves? The rose full of flowers? The lilac in bloom? Were there orange pumpkins?

Did you see a bare maple tree without leaves, in the snow? Did you see a lilac tree in winter dormancy, or covered with green leaves of summer, yet without blossoms? Did you see pumpkin vines and blossoms, but plants without fruit?

Odds are, you saw all these things in full life and bloom. Like a story book, a stereotype of what a rose or pumpkin looks like. Even the geese were identified by pattern recognition!

What do you see?

When I took up oil painting, I had to learn to “re-see” things. In painting it’s referred to as “unteaching” that which we’d been inadvertently “taught”. Tree trunks are brown with green lollipop tops. The sun is yellow, the sky is blue, clouds are white, the water bright blue. All those things may be true at some times, but what about colors in the clouds? How about white water and brown water and water the color of whatever is reflected in it? Is a leafy tree colored green in the light and gray in the shadows? Are shadows black?

Thanks to my “amateur” attempts at oil painting, I have learned to see what is really there. As I course through my days I see the spectrum of colors the water droplets reflect into a cloud. Sometimes you can see the red or green or blue, and grays and purples are frequent. Sometimes the sky is bright cerulean blue and sometimes bold aquamarine and sometimes a pale blue, a frosty pastel.

Sunrise spectrum.

Trees are anything but lollipop-shaped, (except for a few oddities), and grow with a purpose, reaching and climbing, expanding their girth as they age. Trunks are gray and brown and black with green, and white with stripes, sometimes smooth, sometimes ragged. Leaves in shadows are the same color as those in the light, so how do we perceive this? What of color saturation, hue and intensity?

It is by trying to recreate that which I see that has led me to seeing what is really there. Now I am constantly observing, re-learning, truly understanding what the world around me looks like.

Many times I see things and say “If I painted that just the way it is, you’d say it doesn’t look real!”.  Try reading an entry-level book about painting, drawing or pastels. “Drawing from the right side of the brain” is standard fare for artists, and teaches us this very concept.

Even if you don’t indulge your creativity in these forms of art, I’ll guarantee they’ll help you to see!

Be at peace,

Paz

 

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