From "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote
Well, I'm disappointed. Who wouldn't be? With socks, a Sunday school shirt, some handkerchiefs, a hand-me-down sweater and a years subscription to a religious magazine for children. The Little shepherd. It makes me boil. It really does.
My friend has a better haul. A sack of Satsumas, that's her best present. She is proudest, however, of a white wool shawl knitted by her married sister. But she "says" her favorite gift is the kite I built her. And it "is" very beautiful; though not as beautiful as the one she made me, which is blue and scattered with gold and green Good Conduct stars: moreover, my name is painted on it, "Buddy."
"Buddy, the wind is blowing."
The wind is blowing, and nothing will do till we've run to a pasture below the house where Queenie has scooted to bury her bone (and where, a winter hence, Queenie will be buried, too). There plunging through the healthy waist-high grass, we unreel our kites, feel them twitching at the string like sky fish as they swim into the wind. Satisfied, sun-warmed, we sprawl in the grass and peel Satsumas and watch our kites cavort. Soon I forget the socks and hand-me-down sweater. I'm as happy as if we'd already won the fifty-thousand-dollar Grand Prize in that coffee-naming contest.
"My, how foolish I am!" my friend cries, suddenly alert, like a woman remembering too late she has biscuits in the oven. "You know what I've always thought?" she asks in a time of discovery, and not smiling at me but a point beyond. "I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And its been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooking feeling. But I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are" -her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone- "just what they've always been, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."
This final compositional idea is very loosely based on "Golden Sections" placed in a Fibonacci series positioned to create a logarithmic spiral, or nautilus. That's tech-talk for my black and white diagram at right.
Some background: Leonardo Fibonacci, in the 12th century, discovered a numerical series that, starting with 0 and 1, each new number in the series is the sum of the two before it. That is the foundation for the mathematical relationship behind phi but is also visually linked to the "Golden Section', rectangle, mean or what ever you want to call it. To read more, Google "Elements of Dynamic Symmetry", "modular", or "Golden Section".
The great 20th century genius designer and architect, Le Corbusier linked the spiral and its ever expanding compositional space, to its natural counterpart the nautilus.
As with most compositional ideas that I use, this starts with dividing the space into thirds to create the grid (the one loosely based on the "Golden Section") to hang our spiraling points on. This device can also be used in a landscape or still life by placing defining elements, maybe where 2 lines meet or complement colors sit side by side, on the points of the spiral. The idea is to subtly lead the eye of the viewer to the center of interest. In non- representational paintings it creates order in what may appear to be chaos. The points like bread crumbs, lead the viewer to the center of interest. Sometimes it is quite subliminal;
and we thought that only happened in advertising.
My hope, is not to leave this journey in the past or create an "I was there" scrapbook of paintings (this was my WACKY period), but to let the work of probing the more intuitive side of our brain and using the strict compositional themes, to inform every new piece we create.
We (everyone in class) have all enjoyed that sense of pure creative activity, characterized by free flowing process; we also got in touch with the real discipline it takes to tame it.
For this class session we stuck to a very tight set of colors and rules and found that sometimes a short leash is good. This flies in the face of the non- artist's idea - that great non-representational work comes from some out-of-mind experience; in fact it is the work of staying out of just part of your mind at the right times.
I recognize that this may not be commercial work - and to quote a friend and fellow "plein air" painter "people like work they can understand" - still, as explained in the post above, there is method to the madness. Having said that, can it really be characterized as madness?
These pieces were done by
1. Karen Hartney,
2. Josie Perea
3. Judith Greenwood
4. Judith Greenwood
5. Gina Quintana
6. Gina Quintana
You are now free to choose your medium and move about the painting universe.