Friday, May 3, 2013

Pumping Blood and Pushing Daisies

Some art strikes its recipients with thunder and lightning. Other art yields its secrets much more slowly and slyly.

At the recent Parade of Artists in Boerne I had wonderful extended periods of time to talk with some of my fellow artists as well as with the art lovers who came to visit. In talking with my brother-in-the-arts, Harold Teel, I asked him to give me a little insight into how he approaches his work, and some of the little things he does to make his art unique.

Many of the significant details that he weaves into his paintings may be missed by the casual observer. Harold pointed some of them out to me in his painting SPRING ROUNDUP and I will try to recall his tour here.

SPRING ROUNDUP, © Harold Teel, all rights reserved by the artist
On the surface, the watercolor painting is composed mainly of two human legs, both clad in chaps, boots, and spurs. The one on the left is the left leg of a cowboy and on the right is the right leg of a cowgirl. There is clearly a romantic involvement here as the legs are closely spaced and the boots are nearly touching.  Moreover, the cowboy's gloved hand clasps the corresponding one of the cowgirl as he extends to her an offering of freshly picked daisies.

A subtle detail missed by many is the tiny heart-shape embossed in the center of the cowboy's spur rowel— evidence of the cowboy's intent.

Heart in the spur's rowel
As I am looking here at the painting, I notice some other parallel details: the half a heart-shape shadow on the lady's chaps, the heart-shape formed by the blue sky (seen beyond the nearly touching legs) and the two clasped hands above, and the near-heart-shape formed by the lady's boot shadow and the dark toe-end of her boot.  I also notice several (three, four, maybe a half-dozen) other hinted-at heart shapes in the image which may be conscious, unconscious, or even subconscious— but perhaps, accidental and serendipitous.

It's also interesting how the heart-shape itself, a purely abstract contemporary icon for "love" (it really doesn't look much at all like our blood pumps), is composed of two symmetric pieces, joined together in the center— what a great graphic device for two joined by love! And the tension between the heart's pointy-end below and the very rounded-end above seems to mirror the tension that exists in real love between its sharp/compelling aspects on one hand and the comfortable/relaxed freedoms on the other.

Eye of the daisy
And then there is the reverberating device in the form of a daisy: the obvious botanical daisies themselves, their shadows, and the profiles of the two spur rowels...with their corresponding two shadows.  And don't miss the detail of the lady's spur rowel with a yellow center, just like the real daisies above. Then, unseen, and above and beyond the image's border, is the daisy-like profile of the sun itself which is obviously and brightly illuminating the entire scene.

Of course there is even much more to see in the image than what I have stated here, but you get the idea. Take your time when observing art. Look beyond the immediate and the obvious. And even look beyond the subtly designed details. Learn to appreciate each piece for what it is, and it may yield up some surprising secrets.

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