Of Beauty in Visual Art

“As an “artist” what or who inspires you?”

My reply to the question:

“As someone who tries to make music, what inspires me is beautiful things – natural beauty, beautiful music, beautiful writing, and that beauty which can often times be found in brokenness.”

Drawn by a 3 year old. Darth Vader is... happy?

When I was a little girl, my mother often asked me to write letters to our relatives who lived overseas. An integral part of these letters were the drawings my siblings and I were supposed to draw on the letter backs. My mother was often dissatisfied at my clumsy attempts to draw things. “What is that brown thing?”

“It’s a tree,” I would reply.

“Redo it,” she’d say. “It doesn’t look anything like a tree.”

Even years later, my own attempts at drawing resulted in some uneven stick figures with lump heads and straggly hair. Forget about coloring! My attempts to color anything usually turned out disastrous. I don’t have a good sense of how to color, so for example, my trees would have poo colored trunks and bluish-greenish leaves. All solid color, because while I knew about shading, somehow I couldn’t translate that to drawing things in color rather than in lead pencil. Pathetic, right?

Random picture of a tree

And so, being someone rather untalented in the visual arts department, I have always admired people who can produce beautiful paintings or drawings or photographs. I admire people who are knowledgeable about things like shading and contrast and perspective and dimensions and clarity because these are things that I have trouble grasping when I have a still life and a pencil and a pad of paper in front of me. Or even a camera.

At the same time, I love visiting art museums. I love viewing art that makes use of all these things, and many more, besides. I appreciate the value, not to mention inspiration that visual art can bring, which is why I always add photos from Flickr’s Creative Commons section to my blog posts. The pictures can enhance the writing by also giving the reader a mental image about what I’m writing. They’re also excellent for color, so that the reader isn’t reading paragraph after paragraph of black and white print. At the same time, they do not serve as distractions. I can also say that they’re inspiring. If I need some inspiration for writing or something else, it helps to look at beautiful pictures. Especially with Flickr and Photobucket and even Google Image searches, it’s not that hard to find something, though with Google, I’d be afraid of finding nekkid ladies. I have two Facebook friends, avid photographers, with a great deal of talent in capturing faces, scenes, nature, or the cheesecake they had at Pastiche. (Here’s one of them. This is her Facebook business page).

But what makes these pieces of art so inspiring to many of us?

I met one of those photographer friends while taking driver’s ed at the local high school, several years ago. She was pretty, had brown curly hair, a nice smile, and always arrived late. One thing I noticed about her is that she always carried a camera around with her. “Oh, that’s a beautiful sunset! Got to take a picture of that.” “Oh, look at those geese!”

Whenever she whipped her camera out, she seemed to be caught up in rapturous delight. It didn’t matter if it was something as thrilling as a gorgeous sunset, or as mundane as a flock of geese sitting out in a field.

I later became her Facebook friend, and saw those same pictures. I soon learned that she approached the world with this wide-eyed look of almost child-like wonder. She saw beauty in what we’d think would be the most ordinary objects. She saw beauty in people. Everyone had good inside of them. It seemed that she faced the world head-on with this attitude of love and acceptance. This didn’t mean that she couldn’t see the ugliness and injustice that was out there. She saw it — and resolved to make a change in the world.

She had good eyes in the same way that one would describe musicians as having good ears. Where musicians have an affinity for showing others the beauty in sounds, she had an affinity for color and scenes, for seeing the world in a special way. Through her camera lenses, she inspired people to search for beauty and find it in the most seemingly ordinary of things — from a broken window to simple footprints in the snow to someone’s hands on a rusty fence to the people that helped make her life so meaningful.

Maybe one of the reasons why she can take such pictures is because she is a beautiful person. In any case, there was no doubt that she is a beautiful person.

Through their camera lenses, a tree is not just an ordinary tree that you would look at once and not think about again. A tree is a tree. A creation. A thing of beauty that will most likely outlive us several lifetimes. Something that must be treasured.

Maybe a glimpse of eternity?

Not only that, people like her help us see so much of the injustice of the world as captured through their various media, and make us aware that we should fight it.

What I like about people like her is that they see the beauty that is in the world, and they take their paintbrushes, cameras, or crayons and capture a little of that beauty to share it with us. They inspire us with their love for beauty and the way they see even the beauty in brokenness. Their pictures and paintings and crayon sketches make me so aware of the beauty that is to be found in life itself. Perhaps as artists, part of our job is not only to make people see this beauty, but also inspire them to look at the world in a different way.

I was on her facebook info page while writing this. Ironically, considering the theme of this post, she had written about herself:

Right now, my job is to inspire you.

Right now, my job is to inspire you.

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

Last photograph is of and by said photographer. Used with her permission. Thank you, Lauren! For many things.


4 thoughts on “Of Beauty in Visual Art

  1. Great post! As a child, I too was asked to “stay inside the lines” and repeatedly reminded that people don’t have blue hair. Lucky for me, I never paid attention. Photography is indeed a wonderful medium to express creativity. I, like your friend, find it valuable to carry my camera around at all times. You never know when you can come across a great shot!

  2. I think this is such an inspiring post. I agree that photography is a wonderful way to express creativity. I took it in high school and play around with it once in awhile. I miss, however, having access to a real dark room. I used to dance as well. I suppose that’s why I’m drawn to writing…you’ve inspired me for my own post on creativity! I definitely am right brained – that is the side that’s supposed to be creative-minded, right? 🙂

    PS – I gave you an award! http://writersramblings81.blogspot.com/2010/06/award-and-idea.html

  3. thanks for stopping by and commenting
    on my blog! i’m a chinese brush artist
    and i do find much inspiration in nature–esp
    during spring when the flowers are in
    bloom and bursting with fragrance and color.

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