Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brain and Art

Planting Paddy watercolor 6"x8"
I am experimenting with painting fast and loose as well as challenging myself not to fill my painting with pattern and color, leaving some white of the paper untouched. Earlier I had painted the same scene from rural India in Another Season. Here, I further simplified it. I don't know if I like one better than the other.

What makes us like one painting better than another? And what happens in the brain when we see a painting that we really like? NYU's Neural Science and English Department's Dr. Edward Vessel, Nava Rubin and G Gabrielle Starr's poster presentation This is your Brain on Art shows which parts of the brain light up when there is an aesthetic response (strong liking) vs a simple preference to a painting and to what extent is an aesthetic reaction mediated by specific emotional response. Dr. Vessel found there was strong response in multiple areas of the brain when subjects saw a painting they really liked. The responses were triggered in left medial prefrontal cortex, left substantia nigra and left hippocampus. Even as the subjects picked different paintings as their most liked painting, the same set of areas in the brain responded to their varied selections. 'Beauty' in art seems to engage cognitive, memory and emotional circuits in the brain. Check here if you like an easy to understand explanation of the poster.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring Smiles with Flowers

Bouquet With Iris watercolor 13x9

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers -- Claude Monet

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Creativity Quotient

Bouquet with Daffodils watercolor 13x9"

Can what goes on inside a person's brain while he or she engages in a creative task be measured in a laboratory? An article in New York Times 'Charting Creativity- Signposts of a Hazy Territory ' outlines recent research in the field: " Creativity is kind of like pornography-you know it when you see it." said Rex Jung, a research scientist at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque. Dr. Jung, an assistant research professor in the department of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico, said his team was doing first systemic research on the neurology of the creative process, including its relationship to personality and intelligence."

So, what makes one creative? Is it aptitude? divergent thinking? A quirky sense of humor? Risk taking? "The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from point A to B when it comes to intelligence, Dr. Jung explained. "But in regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways." Further into the article I found this gem: According to Kenneth Heilman, a neurologist at the University of Florida and the author of "Creativity and the Brain (2005), creativity not only involves coming up with something new, but also shutting down the brain's habitual response, or letting go of conventional solutions. Interestingly, Dr Kounios defines creativity as the ability to restrucutre one's understanding of a situation in a non-obvious way. I look forward to more research that will help me capture/liberate and maximize that elusive creative spirit and apply it to whatever I do :)

Bouquet with Daffodils in watercolor was my attempt to show the burst of colors that spring brings.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Weed or Wildflower?

Whispers By the Blades of Grass watercolor 22"x30"

In this painting of the 'Henbit', I took some liberties and didn't adhere to the pink / reddish purple of the petals that you find in nature. I took the little flowering plant and enlarged it in my drawing many many times its usual size :) As is my natural inclination, I then filled the paper with color and pattern!

Living close to the water, we try to limit our use of chemicals in the yard as much as possible. This means we have pink clovers, purple henbits, yellow dandelions and buttercups, white sundews etc. sprinkled around the 'lawn' making me often wonder about the difference between a weed and a wildflower. When our daughter was a young child, she would often insist that her Dad mow the grass around the blooming clovers or buttercups and he always happily obliged giving the yard a checkered look of colors! As Ralph Waldo Emerson said " What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." Or from A.A. Milne : " Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."

Whispers by the Blades of Grass watercolor 22"x30"

Monday, May 3, 2010

Labor of Love

My artwork is on display for the month of May at Poquoson Public Library. It is wonderful that the library provides a venue for artists to display their work. For me, it is very gratifying to see and share a collection of my paintings from the past year displayed in one place.

Showing my artwork also forces me to mat and frame the paintings and give them a 'finished' look! --otherwise they languish in some corner of my 'studio' gathering dust. I spent the bulk of my time last month cutting mat and assembling the frames etc. and now I am ready to pick up my brushes and pencils once again. I feel somewhat validated as an artist and sense a renewed wave of enthusiasm to get back to producing more art. While Henry Wards Beecher said "Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his paintings", I think every viewer sees those paintings in her/his own special way too.

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