Happy New Year! How would you like to start 2024 in a new, creative way?
Every Wednesday and Saturday, we will be posting an installment of our book, Through an Artist’s Eyes: Learning to Live Creatively offering you a pathway to art and the vision of the artist. Enabling you to develop your own inner creativity and apply it to the personal cycle of everyday living!
II. The Journey to Art
The Art of Contemplation, Part I
Now, after your art walk, you might like to rest a bit. Sit down in a favorite spot in the place you call home—your bedroom or office or study or TV recreation area. Or even in a corner, because it really doesn’t matter, as long as you have some privacy for your next artistic adventure. A period of thirty minutes to an hour is ideal, but less is acceptable. The best time is likely to be before or after work and everyday tasks, when you can both relax and concentrate on the art of contemplation.
First, look around your room or space or, to use artistic terminology, your studio. Have you ever really observed your surroundings: the furnishings, books, computer, bowl or vase, pictures, windows, and walls? How are they arranged? Is there a particular design, or are they randomly placed?
The artist Vermeer, who lived more than three centuries ago, allows you to enter his house via his paintings, taking you on a tour of a magical room. He invites you to see the value and preciousness of each object within it, whether new or old, faded or shiny, expensive or cheap. Vermeer is your guide through the miracle of light, to the wonder of colors and textures that could be easily overlooked: the pure white tone of an ordinary jug, the dense swirling patterns of a textile tablecloth, the golden illumination of seventeenth century coins, the worn beauty of a treasured jewelry box.
Vermeer can orient you to your own contemporary interior space, showing you the significance and impact of even the most modest room. Have you ever noticed the deep red of a favorite accessory? The velvety touch of your sofa’ s pillow? The weathered surface of your hardwood floor? The slick newness of a recent magazine? The streamlined form of your computer? The play of sunlight flickering over your wall?
And what about the exterior view? Is there a window that enables you to enjoy the outside panorama? The inside and the outside are not completely separate; as the twentieth century artist Matisse once wrote, “The atmosphere of the landscape and my room are one and the same.” He was the artist of windows, allowing the world inside, whether a cramped Parisian city street along the Seine River, and endless harbor view of the Mediterranean Sea, or a shaded garden behind a house.
So think beyond your windowsill and its artificial barrier. Even what might appear as a mundane prospect has infinite possibilities: a lone tree, jagged and bent, the top of a rolling hill, the contrast of light and shadow on a courtyard or alley, water rippling over a pond. The prospect changes and transforms every day, never the same, and you are its painter, if not with your hands, then with your eyes and mind: morning, evening, or mid-afternoon, throughout the four seasons.
Settile in like an artist in your studio, as if you were on a remote island or within an impenetrable tower, though you won’t feel alone. Revel in the initial silence. Now you might want to enhance your visual experience by introducing the chords of music.
What type of music should you choose? Perhaps a relaxing, calming composition, that will enable you to reflect on the scene before you, a melody created by an expert of reverie. How about Debussy?
Claude Debussy was a composer who bridged the nineteenth and twentieth centuries not with symphonies but musical poems that captured states of mind and reflections of nature. “Clair de Lune,” “Clouds,” “La Mer” (The Sea), “Footsteps in the Snow,” and many other pieces. A composition called “Reverie” is particularly moving, creating a sense of timelessness, of eternity, as if enriching your perceptions—colors more intense, light purer, forms magnified, space more concentrated.
Nearby you might want to keep a book or two of the works of art of the French and American Impressionists as well as the Hudson River School painters, among a multitude of other artists. Or you can look them up on your cellphone or computer. Select the images closest to the present moment. Is the light of the sunset about to permeate your studio? Then absorb the spectacular skies of Frederic Church, an American artist who once lived along the Hudson River in the early days of the country’s history. Sunsets were his specialty, often at the peak of coloration when red dominates the sky, ranging from rose to scarlet, mixed with lavenders, purples, and sapphire blues, transitory visions energized by the final rays of the sun.
Or would you prefer the miracle of a snowfall? Its flakes, white and fresh, descending in a steady rhythm, effortlessly covering the ground. Familiar objects disappearing, a forgotten hose, a park bench, a lilac bush, brown with cold, a pile of debris. Sidewalks and streets suddenly ending in drifts shifting in the wind. Quiet transcends, traffic hushed, a pink glow suffusing the atmosphere. Sisley and Monet can help you discover the poetry of winter.
Or think of a spring sunrise, a golden autumn noon, or a less dramatic time or day of the year. Even the dullness of gray skies or what may seem the monotonous greens of midsummer can be fascinating. Andrew Wyeth, the famed American artist, once spent months focusing on the almost colorless hues of snow flurries.
But you are not obliged to pick up a paint brush, unless you are so inspired. Just meditate on the daily paintings of the window world that only you can create. Not to be displayed like a painting but to be felt in your heart and your spirit, ultimately becoming part of yourself.
COMING NEXT: VERMEER
Copyright 2010: Joan Hart, Museum One, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented including photocopying, recording and information storage and retrieval without permission from the publisher.