I took a walk recently on a hike in Southern Oregon’s Redwood forest. The trees are so tall and beautiful and everywhere is covered with moss. Its breathtaking and beautiful, and being the day after Thanksgiving, we had the trail almost completely to ourselves.
While walking, I took many photos of the trees and logs, burls and growths. I saw some mushrooms and some lichen. I thought of how the blank page or canvas in front of an artist can be so daunting, and thought I’d demonstrate how an artist could take photos (by themselves, or by others) and look in them for faces or figures.
Image description, trees, roots, moss and ferns from the Oregon Redwoods Forest
I’m sure if you look at these photos you’ll see shapes and values, but can you use your imagination and nudge those into faces or figures? Take a moment and really look at these before you scroll down and see my drawings. Your interpretations can be completely different than mine.
Image description, a spooky wizard with a cloak whose face is concealed in shadow with his arms raised and a glowing black orb above his head. A cackling witch holding a wand with long springy green hair.
here is a Goofy Muppet version of Totoro.
If you see faces in clouds or the natural grain of wood, you aren’t alone: but you can focus on it: meditate on it, to help fight “writer’s block.” It’s kind of like playing “Exquisite Corpse” with yourself, or is it with the wood spirits? I believe Leonardo da Vinci wrote about this phenomenon and it was part of the inspiration of the German Surrealist Max Ernst. Do you know of any other artists who have written about this phenomenon?
I am a big fan of fantasy art such as the illustrations for Magic: The Gathering. I suspect that sometimes those painters are inspired by nature to give them ideas for composition. Any game that you immerse yourself in and spend time with hundreds of pieces of art is going to leave an impression on you. I’m so grateful for the game and the company who makes it for employing hundreds of artists and bringing thousands of new wonderful beautiful works into our world.
I recently learned that the surrealists sought inspiration in this way. here is an example of a Max Ernst piece, and a grain silo that was his inspiration.
Sometimes I even see an art “wrong” and don’t interpret the piece correctly. This can be a complete shock when you “see” it right or someone points out what it’s supposed to be. Does this ever happen to you? Here are two examples of Magic The Gathering art that I interpreted the wrong way, I saw the first one as facing the right and not the left. The second, i thought the characters arm was her face and she was pen headed with a lacy streamer coming out of the top of her head going to the right.