Lessons from flashbacks:
Light patterns through the trees
Being forced to stay in one place with my leg elevated has resulted in my mind playing with new thought processes, making connections between seemingly unrelated experiences. Without too much rambling I will attempt to connect ice bags, snowballs and drawing trees.
Last Thursday my leg began to swell, as expected. I’d been warned to call the doctor if the swelling went below the knee. I expended a huge amount of energy icing the leg, focusing on the knee area and, as the swelling headed to the ankle I iced the ankle. 24 hour a day icing with no reduction in swelling. By Sunday night I called the doctor and headed back to the hospital to check for blood clots. None…. whew.
The next afternoon my PT, Vince, explained why the icing had not produced results. Ice only helps to slow the swelling from the injured area, not the area that ends up swollen because the fluids have, from gravity, ended up elsewhere. It takes the body time to reabsorb the fluids, but ice will not help any area other than the injured area. Elevation is the only action that will produce results. Hah! I had been working very hard, but not very smart.
Yesterday, as I lay with elevated leg, I kept getting flashbacks from a winter during my teens when I took sculpting lessons at the studio of Wayland Gregory. His house and yard were a maze of giant sculptures and his kitchen was a jungle of plants. Medusa ruled the driveway lined with other mythological characters. The terrace was ruled by a bust of Moses, transformed into Santa during a heavy snowstorm. I had been working for three weeks on a head, feeling pretty good about my progress. That snowy night, I was working on the eyes, more specifically, one eye. For three hours I worked diligently, taking great care with each minuscule feature. Still, it didn’t look alive. I could see Wayland watching me as my frustration grew. I think I may have finally stomped my foot. He came to me and asked whether I thought I understood the bone structure beneath the skin. I nodded. He then said “May I?” I nodded again. He placed one hand gently on the top of the head and with the thumb of the other he gouged a huge hole into my carefully formed head. My jaw dropped. He then took the clay he had removed, rolled part of it into a ball and placed it into the hole he had made. The head came alive. The smell of the wet clay mixing with the fruit wood burning in the fireplace filled my senses and I remember feeling dizzy as if the walls had been blown away, leaving me standing in another world. Wayland saw the smile on my face and invited me to take a walk. That’s when I saw Moses in the snowstorm. That was my first lesson in form. No amount of detail will help if the underlying form (or shape) is not what it should be.
Now to the tree.
I decided to attempt the pattern of light filtering through the trees as seen through the side, bedroom window. I knew it to be a daunting task since there were no strong, obvious shapes to play with. As the drawing progressed, my brain kept sending me flashes of ice bags and Wayland. I kept looking for shapes through the window, trying to translate them into a three step value scale. After about five hours, my eyes clicked in the way they do when looking through a “Magic Eye 3-d” book. I can’t explain, really, what that was like. Suddenly I was seeing shapes coming from a different origin, from a rearranging of what was really out there into something that could be out there. Just as I had been icing the wrong part of my leg, I had been looking in the wrong places to find the shapes I needed. By looking in a different place (more on a different plane of shapes) I was able to see something that was more inventive and more enjoyably translated into an expressive drawing.
I like the way that the light value shapes transform from representing positive space (leaves in the foreground) to representing negative space shapes (the sky through the trees). It reminds me of the way shapes transform in the work of M. C. Escher.