Winter has arrived in Muskoka…
For some this means snowmobiling, winter cottaging, ice fishing – the staples of our winter sports are around the corner. For many artists, it means time in the studio. I love painting winter, but, I paint from photographs. My blood does not suit setting up a tent and painting plein air like some of my artist friends will on very cold days. My method requires that I go out and get pictures. I really enjoy this, even if my camera does not on some of the coldest days. Making art from the landscape requires that you have been there, observing first hand, in order to understand its magic and to hear its message. There is an inherent peace and serenity to a cold snowy landscape. The light quality changes, enhancing the contrast of shadows to highlight. Textures change and fields become smooth. I know people who are not really fans of Winter that love winter landscape art for its peacefulness.
I think this time of year offers just as much fodder for the imagination as any other. It is amazing what one can hear in the forest when the rustle of leaves is gone. A deer rushing through the bush is like thunder, the wind only whispers through the pines. It is simply a question of standing still and observing the sights, the sounds and letting it all in.
There are a number of meditation practices that foster simple observation and I think it is a wonderful tool for creativity. Observation is clearly more than the visual, it can incorporate any of the senses and is a part of really living in the moment. Many religious traditions make use of it, not just Buddhism, but there is also a Christian mystic tradition called the Lectio Divina. This is a contemplative meditation involving the repetition of scripture until it takes on a new or deeper meaning. This method can be used with a passage of any kind that has meaning for the person to you.
Science itself is a kind of contemplation. Einstein himself lauded the creative mind as a source for scientific discovery. I took botany courses in university and in them, we were trained to see the subtle elements and characteristics of plants that would help us to define their family or species. We were asked to draw them. Some of the finest illustration of plants has been done in the name of science. Spending this much time with something gets it to open up its secrets. New meaning is given to the simplest or commonest of things.
Instead of an image, today, I offer you an exercise for creativity. If you are an artist a writer, or love to journal, it might be a way of opening doors to creative thinking. The source for this exercise is up to you. You can select your favourite painting, prose, music or object.
Sit quietly and observe it for as long as you are comfortable.
Now let your imagination run and try one of these approaches:
- Try writing a story about what you see in the painting
- Write a history about the Secret Life of a “__” (fill in the blank with an object of your choosing)
- If you are using prose, draw a picture of what the words mean to you visually.
- Create an image either representational or of pure colour and feeling based on a piece of music
That should open the door and get the creative juices flowing.
I’d love to hear back from you and see how the exercise worked for you. If you would like to share your experiences with me, I’d love to see how you did. If you would like to share them with the world, I would would be happy to publish them here!