Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thoughts About Design

I've been reading through Beaded Embellishment by Amy C. Clarke & Robin Atkins. Amy's "thoughts about design" near the end of the book resonated, eloquently answering the question of why we create:

" is more than just creating things to protect us from the elements or to make our day-to-day survival easier. We have a desire to perceive and reflect what surrounds us - sometimes we perceive happiness, sometimes despair, sometimes beauty, sometimes ugliness." (Emphasis mine.)

This is exactly what I find myself doing all the time. Little discoveries and insights as I view the world around me are hard to keep to myself. This image of reflecting those things helps me understand why so much of what I observe I have an instinctive need to express in my art.

She goes on to link the ability to design to this ability to perceive:

"Learning to design also means learning to perceive. In the same way that listening goes beyond hearing, perceiving goes beyond simply seeing. It means becoming aware of your surroundings through all of your senses. Perceiving is also seeing with your heart and mind. Designing involves taking what you perceive and translating it into a visual language." (Again,, emphasis is mine.)

Again, this expresses my creative journey well. My father always criticized me for not being very observant. He saw minutia where I only saw the larger picture. But that has changed over the years, and even more quickly over the last 6 or so years. The more I look around me, the more I see, and then the more I perceive. I have become more aware of the minutia of my surroundings, seeing things in new ways, remembering how I once viewed things but had gotten away from seeing them. And always, underlying this constant observation, the need to somehow use it, reflect it, to share with others.

Co-author Robin weighs in on this topic of design as well. She reminds us that we have hidden resources we can trust when it comes to good design:

"...remember that from the moment of your birth, you are surrounded by great designs. Consider nature's perfect balance of color, texture, and line in every flower, every leaf, every insect, every living thing around you - things you see every day of your life...Your subconscious takes it all in - every detail." (Emphasis mine.)

If only we knew how to tap into our subconscious when we needed the details, needed the answers. No wonder some of us take so many photographs, sketch so many ideas. We don't trust our brains to be able to pop out the information on demand. We study books, question others about technique, do everything but rely on ourselves so much of the time. Well, I do, at least. So I appreciated Robin's encouraging conclusion to this section:

"Inside each of us, there's a huge reservoir of knowledge about successful design, based on both conscious and subconscious observations. We have only to trust it to guide our intuition. Trusting your intuition is the key to pleasing yourself with your designs." (Emphasis mine.)

And in pleasing ourselves, we will better create art that will stand the test of time and please others. It just doesn't work very well the other way around - designing to please others and ignoring our intuition.


Chris said...

First of all, thanks for leaving that crazy post on my blog. You know. The one about that woman breaking into tombs and sketching the dead, JEEZ!! That was crazy, I loved it.

Nice post here, as well. I think one of my favorite things about this blogging business is that we do all this sharing. I most likely would not have seen that book anytime soon, but you have pulled out an excellent tidbit.

I rarely use a sketchbook. Some people make an art form out of that. I guess I feel that I don't have any time as it is, i can't worry about planning everything!

Mary Stori said...

Well said!!!