FREE - Join almost 50,000 people and read the world's most popular twice-weekly email letter about art.
Absolutely free, no strings. You'll get the valuable twice-weekly letter and be joining the world's most active art community.
Militarized/Demilitarized encaustic collage on board 32 x 32 inches
Glaucous III encaustic painting 24 x 24 inches
Impulsive V encaustic collage on board 24 x 24 inches
Linear II encaustic on board 31 x 40 inches
Megacircle encaustic on board 33 x 48 inches
Manse in the forest acrylic on canvas 60 x 48 inches
October 4, 2013
This morning Evelyn Dunphy of West Bath, ME, USA wrote, "Some time ago you wrote about the experience of feeling an overwhelming emotion in the presence of beauty. There was a principle named after the man who identified this feeling of awe. Who was it and what was the name of the principle?"
Thanks, Evelyn. You're probably thinking about my letter on January 18th, 'The Stendhal Syndrome,'
where I talked about looking at beautiful art and having rapid heartbeat, dizziness and confusion. In 1817, the French writer Stendhal was discombobulated after visiting the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence. It was a similar discombobulation I was to repeat in the same place in 2010. Fact is, most of us have had wobbly legs in public galleries when suddenly confronted with art we may have previously only seen in books or online.
Or you may have been thinking about my letter of March 29th, 'Spinoza and me,'
where I wrote about one of my favourite Dutchmen. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) felt that "all things are worthy of interest and study, including the tiniest animalcule or flower, and the universe itself."
Spinoza and Stendhal were not the only ones to be in awe of everything. "The world," said the Irish poet W. B. Yeats, "is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."
That's it. As we sharpen our senses the world becomes a more awesome place. Artists of all stripes are particularly favoured to develop a high degree of awe. Our profession demands that we see more than others and apply our love and talent to exploit it.
On our recent painting ventures into the magnificent Bugaboo Mountains, artists would step out of the helicopter and start screaming. We called these involuntary outbursts "Boogasms." Only the seriously jaded were not having them.
A dictionary definition of awe is "an overwhelming feeling of reverence and admiration produced by that which is grand, sublime or extremely powerful." In modern times, a great deal of awe centres on the field of science. "The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable," wrote Richard Dawkins. "It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music, art and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite."
PS: "The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle and much more elegant." (astrophysicist Carl Sagan, 1934-1996)
Esoterica: Psychologists have studied the inspirational qualities of awe. When asked to say something while viewing a brontosaurus skeleton, test subjects were more likely to speak in grandiose terms: "I, too, have been a fellow traveller on planet Earth." When confronted with something less awesome like a stuffed domestic rat, they spoke in baser terms: "I wonder where I can get a beer."
Awesome rats by Warren Criswell, Benton, AR, USA
"The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper." A great quote fromStill Life with Keys I oil painting 14 x 12 inchesYeats. "Quite so, Watson," as Sherlock Holmes said, "you see, but you do not observe." As much as I admire your awe inspiring mountaintop painting adventures, my own images don't usually come from visiting places I've never been before but from things I've seen a million times before. Seen but not observed until that moment. The way headlights illuminate the trees on a familiar curve; a certain contour of a model's thigh (referring back to your last letter on figure drawing) never noticed before; the way the light falls on a roll of toilet paper when I open the bathroom door. The rat can be as awesome as the brontosaurus.
There are 4 comments for Awesome rats by Warren Criswell
Piano played outdoors by Cheryl Braganza, Montreal, QC, Canada
This summer a public piano was placed in my neighborhood in Montreal. I decided to play it and returnedMarket Melodies original painting
every day, weather-permitting. I can only say that what made me go back was that Stendhal had struck. Imagine playing Debussy, Chopin, jazz standards under the rustle of the trees, a cobalt sky, chirping sparrows, a full moon, the gently flowing Lachine canal. I was overcome by rapid heart-beat, dizziness and, yes, the occasional orgasm..... I was in love with our universe, in awe of the wonders of creativity, of being consumed by beauty and, as people came and went and the leaves began to scatter, I was reminded of the eternal passage of time.
There are 3 comments for Piano played outdoors by Cheryl Braganza
The Responsive Chord by Brad Michael Moore, Perrin, TX, USA
I grew up equating, "Awe," as in unison with, "The Responsive Chord." All at once, experiencing Dark Matters digital painting
something magnificently turning myself whole, inside and out, as a beautiful perfectly pitched tuning fork - rung by a pounding - like a kiss of lightening struck within my soul. Really, it's hard to describe - even for a poet.
There is 1 comment for The Responsive Chord by Brad Michael Moore
Dawkins's quoted passion by Lisa Chakrabarti, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Based on Richard Dawkins's quote: "The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of theHorses in snow ink and watercolour painting
highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable." Its ardor seems a bit misplaced. The Arts and science are both constructs of man, and both seek to understand the nature of things, just from differing points of reference. One seeks to express, the other to explain. In the process of explanation, science disrobes nature's mystery, and is ever questing to define the whole of it. By comparison, the arts exalt the essence of being and the nature of things without necessarily prying into the nuts and bolts of their existence. And if the arts do manage to explain, it is by implication rather than proof. His claim that science has a "deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that art, music and poetry can deliver" is subjective and hardly a scientific statement.
It might be worthwhile here to point out that Dawkins is an avowed, albeit strident, atheist. Ironically, his singing such high praises of science has an almost religious ring. While somewhat agnostic myself, I will admit that art is almost a religion to me; Dawkins seems to use science to fill a similar vacuum in his life. Dawkins's quote implies that there is no higher entity than man, since man has created both science and art. Such arrogance! It could be argued that Dawkins means to refer to 'nature' rather than science. But he is too educated to make that kind of mix-up. I wonder if Dawkins himself really believes what he wrote - or was it just to appeal to the masses to further his agenda?
There are 8 comments for Dawkins's quoted passion by Lisa Chakrabarti
Delicate perfection of nature by Joanna Finch, Cumberland, BC, Canada
I feel these "boogasms' fairly frequently when I am in nature or when I listen to music that touches me, or quite often when I eat delicious food. Then I call these: GO's. Gastronomic orgasms.
The sense one gets when in the presence of perfection, enraptured by the simplest wonders of nature, is that joy and awe are intermingled with grief. I feel slight misery when I behold the delicate perfection of nature, because I know I will move onto something less interesting in a second and that moment of perfection is fleeting. I would like to have that bright-eyed awareness/wonder awakened in every passing moment. I guess that would mean my mind would have to stop looking inward and instead be fully conscious of the moment.
I sang the Blake poem, "Auguries of Innocence," when I was in the Christ Church Cathedral choir in Victoria when I was 16. It stayed with me. I am thrilled regularly by awesome observations of art and nature. I am still sharpening my senses and noticing the world is truly an awesome place.
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour."
There is 0 comment for Delicate perfection of nature by Joanna Finch
Children can relate to beauty by Ronni Jolles, Great Falls, VA, USA
When I go to MOMA in New York, and see the huge Monet water lilies piece in one of those rooms, I literally Winter Sky acrylic painting
have to sit down. I find it so moving, and so beautiful, and it totally envelopes you as you sit in front of such a huge piece (like 20 feet wide?). I could totally relate to that kind of awe. And when I see a beautiful sunset or a view that just makes me have to stop and look and look and look, I figure it's just a gift from above to those of us who see it. All of my kids are in the arts--none are visual artists, but at least I have had some effect on them because they'll say they saw something beautiful and think of me, and I think..."Hmmm. At least they're seeing it!"
There are 2 comments for Children can relate to beauty by Ronni Jolles
Other-worldly phenomenon by Nikki Coulombe, Lewisville, TX, USA
Nature demands no attention or compliment, just as W.B. Yeats eludes to in your letter; the magic is thereOceanside Beach Formations #3 original photograph
for us to discover and savor - or not. This other-worldly sand-shaped cone was formed by changing tides and strong winds, was one of many unique shapes found only for about one mile along a particular beach in Oceanside, Oregon. Some shapes were more interesting as groups, where the progress of the phenomenon could be speculated. Without the camera I could never describe the sophisticated beauty of each, but the multi-dimensional experience could never be captured by camera, or any other medium. I return occasionally, when new ones have formed, but they are never as spectacular as the first day, and I have never seen another cone.
There is 1 comment for Other-worldly phenomenon by Nikki Coulombe
Shark Tooth acrylic painting 22 x 33 inches John Burk, Newport, RI, USA
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Luc Poitras
of Montreal, QC, Canada, who wrote, "The Canadian artist David Milne called this awe: aesthetic emotion. He didn't invent the term but used it often."
If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.
You are invited to add your opinions or further information to Awe...
Absolutely free, no strings. Cancel at any time. You'll get the valuable twice-weekly letter only. Your email address will not be lent, sold or put on any spam or other nasty list. Guaranteed. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE FREE