I am not an artist. I do not pretend to be, but there’s something about stunning visuals that interest me and frequently fill me with an awe that doesn’t seem to come around too often in my busy, nose-to-the-grindstone life. I never really traveled outside of a very small area growing up, and even on my first big international trip to see family in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I was too scared to venture out and my family was too worried to let us out of their sight, and with good reason; it’s not the safest place. However, I do remember my cousins taking us out to a beach house, far away from the city. It was there that I really started to appreciate landscapes. I was taking pictures of everything. One such picture became the subject of one of my first oil paintings – which I still have today as proof that I’m not an artist.
A second trip to Brazil after getting married really stoked my wanderlust. My wife had already been there for over a month and this time I stayed with her in a slum in Rio. From there, we traveled up the coast – just the two of us – throwing caution to the wind and making our plans along the way. It was not only fun, but I found I wasn’t as scared of the world! The trip started to spark a sense of adventure in me when we set off to visit the Chapada Diamantina, which is an expansive national park full of mesas carpeted in green. It was breathtaking.The textures, the colors, the shapes, and there’s nothing around. We were just out in the middle of nowhere. I live for these types of scenes and there is not an artist, or even army of artists, that could create something that could compete with this naturally occurring visual.
Art really is everywhere
Appreciating this kind of beauty, not just in national parks or scenic vistas, but in everyday life, can really help a designer see what makes something aesthetically pleasing. It becomes a study on good design.
I do acknowledge the joys my other senses bring me – the smell of coffee, the taste of coffee, the feeling of my burnt tongue because said coffee was too hot – but there’s a little something extra in seeing the sun penetrating through the leaves on an autumn morning, creating a kaleidoscope of color, or maybe the interplay of shadow and light created by the late day sun beating against a row of columns. There’s a lot in this world that’s simply beautiful: art that’s free for all to enjoy and the best part is that it wasn’t created by some pretentious dink in a beret.
I will admit, I’m particularly fond of nature scenes and it makes for a convenient illustration of my point because even though you haven’t seen the same exact kaleidoscope of colors on the same exact trees, you’ve probably seen something just like it. The thing is that it isn’t just limited to nature, the rigid geometry of buildings and bridges, for example, stand in defiance to nature and can be equally as inspiring and in some cases they use nature as inspiration (the golden ratio). A fantastic series of articles – The Importance of Art in Daily Life – shows a similar fondness for aesthetics in the seemingly mundane. In one article, David Norris posits the effects such “art” can have on our emotional state – both good and bad. In some cases the same visual can affect two people in two completely different ways. Art is subjective in that way, and if we all took a little time to look at things a bit more keenly we’d spot it more often and stop depriving ourselves of seeing the gallery that is open before us. So get out there. Take a look at the world around you with fresh eyes. Let your guard down a little. You might actually enjoy what it does for you. As a person and as a designer.