Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Scared of the Dark

Even though most people have all their senses at their disposal, we should all try to focus on our senses as if we are lacking one, in order to make them all more acute.

So, you're an adult. You're not scared of the boogie man or the monsters under your bed anymore...but not being able to see can be down-right terrifying, right? (So can being unable to hear, now that I mention it.) Having a full tool belt of senses gives us confidence to meet the world head on, and being short one tool makes us feel vulnerable. (That is why one of the most intense punishments for prisoners is the temporary deprivation of communication with others through solitary confinement.)  Being without the use of one of our senses is scary!

We learn from greats who have experienced this like Helen Keller, Beethoven and Ray Charles.  These and other individuals accomplished amazing things despite the loss of one or more of their senses, by becoming hyper-sensitive in other areas. Compensating for the loss, a blind person's sense of hearing becomes more acute than the average Joe.  A deaf person becomes aware of the way things feel or smell.  These individuals show us that it is possible to navigate life with incredible power by appreciating each of our senses. 
(Image via Cup of Jo)

As a visual artist, it's easy to let my sense of sight pull all the weight.  I try to combat this by painting from life instead of from photographs whenever possible. When I'm standing on a street corner painting a cityscape, my senses are processing the sounds of people laughing, the smells of nearby restaurants and the feel of the hot sun on my neck. When I work this way, the painting becomes more than just a copy of the way things look. It becomes its own tiny world, with its darkness lit from many different lights. By trying to use all the senses at my disposal, I am able to paint a much clearer picture of the world than my sight alone can provide. 

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