Friday, August 14, 2009

"This is your brain on painting"

"Be Well" illustration for Nick Moran, artist Darcy Gerdes

This is good. Always listen to music while painting.

This is your brain on painting August 14, 2009 By Robert Genn

For those who might wonder why music plays such a great role in human life and culture, Daniel J. Levitin has written This is Your Brain on Music. The book contains remarkable insights and new information on music, song and dance. Some researchers think music may actually predate speech. Others see it as a wayward deviation that only ends in harmless play. Curiously open-ended and open-minded, there's something on every page of Levitin's book that has me asking similar questions about the brain and painting.

"The Wizard" color pencil, Darcy Gerdes. Idynomes collection
Folks have been making marks on cave walls for almost as long as they've been humming and whistling. And folks have been painting some sort of pictures, getting attention and impressing others for longer than rockers have been rocking for chicks. Can these arts be related to the business of attracting a mate, or are they some form of mass or private beguilement? Further, has evolution hardwired some of us to our brushes? If so, what's the nature of this wiring, why do we plug into it, and what's it good for?

Among many other enrichments, three words keep reappearing in Levitin's book--rhythm, repetition and novelty. Here's how I feel they might just apply to our game:

Lion & the Lamb: darcy gerdes
Rhythm is an elemental force in human nature. In visual art the moving brush and the wandering eye are directed toward harmonious cycles and shapes that amuse and satisfy. This rhythm is between curves and flats, protrusions and recessions, crudeness and delicacy, patterns and amorphousness, lines and forms. As in music, the list goes on.

Repetition is one of those strangely satisfying curiosities that somehow helps us feel rewarded and secure. Repeated motifs, themes and stylistic peculiarities give a "beat" to visual art that seduces the eye and brings it back for more. Far from being boring, repetition is the grid on which higher themes may fly.

At the same time, the human brain and eye love novelty. Something new around the corner--a surprise, a jolt out of the normal--arrests our flow and gives a sudden flush of wonder and joy. In the evenness that describes so much of life, humanity craves the bump of novelty.

Best regards,Robert

PS: "Another possibility is that evolution selected creativity in general as a marker of sexual fitness." (Daniel J. Levitin)

Esoterica: Coincidentally, on recent jury duty I was paying attention to the choices of my fellow jurors. For the most part they chose art that was not necessarily technically competent or perfectly rendered. What held the juror's attention and received the highest number of votes was work that appeared to me to overflow with rhythm, repetition and novelty. Coincidentally, I had just watched the works being painted on location, and those winning artists also seemed hardwired to having the most fun.

Current clickback: Divestiture looks at the business of selling off a collection of art work and the methodologies of doing so. Selected, illustrated reader input as well as live comment is included.Read this letter online and give us an idea what's going on in your brain when you paint.

You can also write Robert directly at rgenn@saraphina.comEvery day there are new features going into The Painter's Post. This online arts aggregator has links to art info, ideas, inspiration and unmitigated creative fun.If a friend is trying to subscribe to the Twice-Weekly Letter via Constant Contact, please let them know that as well as subscribing they must confirm their subscription.

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warrior moon darcy gerdes work in progress
Flying Pigment Studio

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