All forms of life recognize patterns as prompts for sexual arousal, for eating, for fleeing, for fighting. Most mammals rely on patterns delivered through smell, hearing or vision. We are most dependent on recognizing the patterns accessed by vision. We recognize our world through familiar patterns. Recognizing and making landscape paintings depends upon a culturally specialized set of patterns.
Anthropologists have discovered cultures who do not recognize pictures printed on paper or, don’t recognize linear perspective as a system which creates an illusion of credible space on a 2 dimensional plane.
We must learn these familiar patterns and then as artists, we can expand upon the set of conventional patterns. Here are some examples.
If I take a photo of a garden (example 1) and then a photo of a rose against the sky. Next I layer these two images. My mind wants to create a singular identity from the fused images; a rose in a garden.
I can separate these two subjects with different colors and textures. But, as long as I use the familiar rose shape and the foliated patterns of plants in a garden my brain wants make a single unified pattern, a single hypothesis. I fused the parts into a new whole. It may appear different from other gardens I have known but, it has enough familiar patterning for me to make a “Rose in a Garden” hypothesis.
Let’s try some more engineering of our pattern knowledge. We have learned that objects of the same size which are closer to us appear bigger than those farther away. This is true for areas as well as objects. If I take a photo of a stream (example 3) and then compress and colorize that image it will appear foreshortened. It will not appear especially unrealistic just foreshortened (example 4).
I can use the image in example 4 as starting point for further manipulations but, I will maintain the pattern of the progression of larger to smaller horizontal bands throughout my abstracting manipulations. Examples 5 and 6 illustrate two different responses to the pattern initiated in example 4. In each case we are still able to read the image even though it has departed enormously from the original photo.
Consider this, If I lay down a hub-and-spoke design or pattern of receding triangles converging toward a common eye-level (and, in this case toward a common horizon as well) and a central area of convergence I will have constructed a classic landscape design. It should feel familiar as a landscape even though there is a quality of individuality to the image.
This Sunday, March 8 from 4:30 to 6:30 PM I am giving a lecture and demonstration at the Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan, CT. The subject: “Seeing In Patterns”, how we select and make our lives through patterns. The price is $45. Call the Silvermine School of Art at 203 966 6668 ext 12 or visit www.silvermineart.org
I want to invite you to join me this August for a three day workshop on Nantucket Island off the Coast of Massachusetts running from Thursday August 20 through Saturday August 22. This is a studio workshop at the Artists Association of Nantucket at 24 Amelia Drive. Their telephone number is 508 228 0722. Ask to speak with Elizabeth Congdon. The website is nantucketarts.org. The workshop will be posted in March on their website.
Join me for another 3-day studio workshop which runs from Wednesday June 24th through Friday June 26th at the Centerpiece Gallery in Raleigh NC. Find them at www.thecenterpiece.com or call them at 919 271 9843.