Life Is Art, Nature Is The Model

A still life, very much alive.

Does life imitate art or art imitate life? Since ancient times this philosophical question has intrigued thinkers, makers, and believers. Nature is the model that helps us understand our primal relationship and responses to life. It inspires us to contemplate the beauty that exists in the world and the meaning of our existence.

When we experience Earth coming alive in spring, energized by the Sun’s vernal light and warmth, we are enlivened. We awaken to new growth and potential with a renewed energy to create. After the blues and grays of winter, the greens and yellows have their moment to emerge. Spring energizes our creativity to clear away the dead debris of the past and make way for the miracle of new life, new ways of flourishing, new ways of thinking, doing, and being. To observe nature in the first weeks of spring is like watching a painter make a first sketch that blossoms into a beautiful painting.

Art is a medium for observing and imitating nature, and our human nature. Our human creativity stimulates us to make our mark or match. We generate what is original and regenerate its form. We create an original expression of what we internally think and feel, or we interpret what we observe in external experience. It is an organic process that comes from the soul and helps us know and relate what is knowable and relatable. Nature prompts us to copy, model and mimic, to use what we know and see, what we intuit and imagine. It activates creativity and a positive growth mindset. This proactive, life-enhancing process motivates us to create order from chaos, understanding from confusion, resplendence from ugliness, happiness from sadness, meaning from life, abundance from the seeds of our thoughts and desires. Naturally, spring is a perfect metaphor for the cleaning, recycling, improving, and renewing that expresses our creativity and makes life better. It is a hopeful time of birthing and blooming.

I teach people to paint by seeing and feeling. This is part of the dialogue as I demonstrate watercolor and sketching techniques, often as I am looking at an object or a scene in nature. In Maine’s sunniest landscapes daffodils appear early in the season and are available by the bunches in flower markets. Over the past few weeks I’ve been using daffodils as the model in my painting classes. They are a colorful and happy shape to paint. I made the watercolor sketches in this photograph, now arranged in a still life that is very much alive. Life imitating art, art imitating life. It is no imitation. Life is art. Art is all the products of human creativity. What happens in life, happens in the studio. How we live and love our life is reflected in our creative human nature and the natural world. Spring enlivens the senses in all living creatures, reminding us that nature mirrors the creative cycles of life and art.