Art and Philosophy28 Aug 2010 11:14 am

Imagine you’re sitting in a drawing class and all eyes are focused on a bowl of fruit at the front of the room. All have been instructed to draw what they see, and have received identical technical instruction on how to draw the image before them.

After all have finished you walk about the room to see all the drawings. Though impressed with the accuracy with which they have rendered the bowl of fruit you can’t but help noticing the fact that no two drawings are identical. In fact, the longer you look the more unique and different each drawing seems from another, while at the same time still “accurately” capturing a relative photo of the bowl of fruit.

There are many reasons for these differences. First in even a simple pencil line drawing there are numerable subtleties in each pencil stroke in terms of width, darkness, and interface with the next line. There is also slight differences of focal point of the picture where your eye is drawn to see as the true center of the drawing. There are variances in the play of light and shadow, in what is highlighted and what is more background.

The list of variances of drawings in a single class could fill up pages in a book. While some of these variances are due to slight differences in motor skills and physiology of each individual artist, there are also differences caused by the individuality of each artist experience of the bowl of fruit.

Each artist is occupying a unique position in the room and with it a unique vantage point of the fruit bowl. This causes slight changes of perspective in the view and perception of the bowl. This unique perspective not only influences the angle and focus of the drawing, but also makes significant alterations in the play of light and shadow.

An artist who is attempting to truly draw what he is seeing in terms of shapes and lines will render the scene much differently than an artist who is drawing a bowl of fruit. The one drawing a bowl of fruit will be influenced by the preconceptions of banana, apple and orange. The one drawing lines and shadows rendering may look more abstract in that the fruit may not immediately maximize its apple-ness or orange-ness, but rather look and feel more like geometric shapes than pieces of fruit.

The emotional state and the feelings evoked by the bowl of fruit will also be part of the artist’s end product. One who is bored or neutral to the scene will draw a much different portrait than one who is hungry or finds the scene nostalgic or fascinating. Likewise a happy artist draws even the most simple line differently than the mantic or depressed one.

Many of the variables which cause each drawing to be different and unique are also changing during the time spent drawing the bowl of fruit. Often times the play of light and shadow are changing, any shift in position or body posture of the artist changes the perception of the scene, and at every moment the artists emotional and psychic experience of the bowl of fruit is in flux. In many ways the artist is changing at each and every moment and so, therefore, each finished drawing is a composite of different artists (the same person at different points in time).

The differences between line drawing are minor compared to the differences that arise when colors and different mediums are introduced. A fruit bowl rendered through charcoal, oils, water colors, or clay will be dramatically different than through a pencil line drawing. The relatively infinite variety is found everywhere from brush strokes, to density, to pixels.

The amount of shade or brightness will greatly affect the shade of green or red of the apple in the fruit bowl. Even whiteness will be altered by the contrast induced by the neighboring fruits and open spaces. Yet, despite the myriad of differences the experience of the same bowl of fruit persists.

Our life experience could be looked at as an innumerable number of snap shots of our life world. Each and every moment we are the artist taking note and documenting his perception of his environment. Like the still life drawings, we are all seeing the same things but our individual experiences and perceptions are unique and different from each other and from our past experiences of the same object.

Who hasn’t read a book or viewed a movie a second time and been struck with how different the experience was the second time? A favorite book I read as a teenager or young adult is not the same book as the one I read now in my fifties. In each reading I perceive and take away something different from the previous one.

This potential of human growth, change and development is not an exhaustible resource. As long as we are a living and sentient being we are always capable of new and significant perceptions and experiences. In fact we are incapable of ever truly duplicating any life experience, for each and every moment we are a slightly different person with a new history and emotional perspective.

Yet, the inevitability of human change in all aspects of perception, thought and experience does present some challenges. It does make it obvious that no one can truly experience what we do and that we are always alone in the universe. It also tends to put limits on how much certainty and finality we can have in terms of self and worldly knowledge. Yet, that is the cost of being a truly unique and individual person who is able to grow and change.

Though our experiences and perceptions are always redefining and composing ourselves it does not mean that we and our lives are random, chaotic or meaningless. What it does mean is that our sense of self and life experience is an ongoing process. While some might view a sense of certainty as reassuring and secure, it also is very limiting and opposed to the way we experience life.

The uniqueness of our every experience and our never ending sense of who we are should not be a threat to our ability to share with others and feel apart of the world. Likewise, our ability to feel connected and to love others should not dampen our ability to feel unique and special.

As humans we have both a need to belong and a need to be a unique individual. The built in irony to this is the fact that we need others to validate and appreciate our uniqueness. So even our ability to feel unique is dependent on the validation we receive from others.

The good news is that our needs fit in with our very experience of life. Though no one can truly duplicate our thoughts, feelings and perceptions we all see the same bowl of fruit. In general we all see and feel the same world, we all sense that others have similar feelings and reactions to the way others behave and conduct themselves.

We can see joy, fear, concern and love in the eyes of others, and in the way they act even if they do not speak the same language as us, or live in a culture very different from ours. We can see we have many of the same needs and concerns and can derive great joy from making others feel good about themselves and safe in the world.

We can all enjoy looking at the renderings of others while still not detracting from our own view of the fruit bowl. We can hear and appreciate the articulations of others on how they view the world without it detracting from our experience.

Even when we are drawing a still life, it is still life.

I enjoy the opportunity afforded me through this website to articulate my individuality as well as hopefully render our shared reality. I feel very fortunate to be a human being, and aspire to help others get to a place in their life where they can appreciate the beauties and wonder of human existence.

Humanity is a composite of all of our individual perceptions and feelings. Sometimes our desire for certainty and truth blinds us to the true beauty and wonder of human experience. Instead of providing all with a pencil and paper and let them draw and express who they are and what they feel we hold up the official painting of reality for all to agree to and revere.

Certainty is dangerous because it is so foreign to how we actually experience life.

Jim Guido

4 Responses to “Still Life”

  1. on 28 Aug 2010 at 5:37 pm canada model

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  2. on 28 Aug 2010 at 5:38 pm canada model

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  3. on 28 Aug 2010 at 5:39 pm canada model

    yep :-p I like youyr blog, I use to read it twice a weeek and I like it :-p lol

  4. on 28 Aug 2010 at 6:44 pm Guido

    I’m glad you like the posts. Hope you can take the time to read my lyrics and listen to my songs in the music section, and read my books in the word section.

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