Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Patterns of our Lives

Designers and artists are constantly looking for new patterns, shapes, and textures. Some search for patterns already created in hopes of adding a new twist or variation. The local fabric store is one place to look for these designs. Fabrics and textiles are replete with dizzying dots, chunky checks, and sizzling swirls. An artist friend of mine creates beautiful paintings based on these designs or the ideas they produce.

Others look to nature for inspiration. Studying the patterns and variations in nature is vital, especially for painters of realism. Every plant, every tree has a specific design, color and texture. Insects, fish and animal life have stunning differences; their markings, shapes, and colors provide a wide array of patterns and designs. The bark of a southern pine, for instance, is red and rough. The bark of a gumbo limbo is smooth. Leaves vary in size, shape, and color. Nature can povide an endless supply of inspiration for an observant artist.

Even the patterns in our own lives can be a source of inspiration: the everyday traditions that link the past with the present; the habits that form patterns of routine; the way we communicate with each other or show affection; the interactions with others; our sacred and ceremonial celebrations. All of these form patterns that not only make wonderful memories, but may form the basis of a beautiful painting.

Study and observation can arouse your senses and open up a whole new world of possibilities. Notice the differences in grains of wood from one type to another: maple vs. walnut, cherry vs. oak. Try to identify different species of butterlies and moths. Experiment with trying to mimic their color and design. Count the number of petals in a flower, a daisy, a hibiscus, a lily, etc. Study each stamens size and shape and the patterns at the center. Be observant!

If you’re a portrait artist, watch what happens when someone smiles. Where are the crinkles, the dimples, the creases around the eyes and nose? See how different everyone’s ears are, but yet similar in structure. Notice how emotion changes the lines of a face. See how light and shadow can play up these emotions or make someone appear serious.

Capture those observed patterns on canvas in your own unique way and each painting will tell a story. The secret is to pull the viewer in with a “why?” a “what if?” an “I wonder?” or a “wow.”