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A Rose is a Rose is a Rose... Or is it?

My first blog... Welcome glass friends to "Through the Looking Glass"!

This blog will be my opportunity to help you to develop your design skills, learn about products and techniques, talk about art glass and art in general! I am here to educate, inspire and provide you with opportunitites to put into practice what you have learned. I am also here to be your "art cheerleader", encouraging you to take chances and try new things. It's all part of the process of growing as an artist.

Today I would like to focus on design. Although I have taught art technique courses in all types of media -- Art 2-D, Art 3-D, painting, sculpture, photography, collage, mixed media, assemblage, fused glass, cast glass, stained glass -- and at many levels, from beginning to advanced...throughout all those courses, my major strength has been my ability to help students develop a deeper understanding of design concepts, along with the ability to apply that knowledge to their art.

The first step in ramping up your design skills is to re-sensitize and develop your aesthetic awareness. It may seem quite obvious to us all, that an artist should be aesthetically sensitive, however, we often forget that "up-grading" that part of our brain needs exercise, just as our muscles do. The old adage..."Use it or lose it" most definitely, does apply! If you are currently working in your studio, creating projects, you are already "aesthetically exercising" to some degree. But all of us have times when we feel blocked, or that we have hit a wall or that those creative juices are just not flowing for the moment. If you are with me so far, then you will want to try the following easy aesthetic exercise that I have developed. It's something that I try to do everyday and hope that you will consider making a part of your daily routine, as well. Although it is not needed for this exercise, I also strongly suggest that you begin to keep a design/aesthetic journal for exercises that I will lead you through and in addition, you can sketch, cut and paste, and in general, record you artisitic thoughts there.

The objective of this exercise is to specifically increase your aesthetic awareness and sensitivity. We live in a world in which we are constantly being bombarded by images and information, all of which overloads us to the point that we shut down and filter things out. As an artist, we need to be able to turn off those "spam" filters and open up when we need to. So let's get started! Aesthetic Sensitivity Exercise, Number One: Approximately 10 minutes. Once each day, or as often as you can manage, take a little time in order to nurture your creative self. Find a spot where you will not be distracted or interrupted. In many ways, this is a meditative activity, so you'll receive the added benefit of de-stressing at the same time! Find an object around your house or in your garden, natural or man-made, that sparks your interest. This will be your aesthetic object of interest for the day. Sit, get comfortable, and place your object on a white piece of paper or cloth in order to isolate it from the surrounding area. You may, or may not, want to write down your responses. Use your aesthetic design journal if you have one.

Now we can begin the aesthetic sensitivity process.

First, look at your object...and I mean LOOK! Move your eyes around the contours of the object, as if you were touching it with your eyes. Focus on details of line, form, and shape. Are there any irregularities, "imperfections", any surprises? Something you never noticed before about this object?

Now, let's look at color? Study it. Is it solid or multi-colored? Are there variations within the colors? Place the object on the paper or cloth. Are there shadows? How does that affect the colors? Where do you see the shadows? Look at the shadows in relation to any light source. Take your time, there is no need to hurry! Pick up your object. Feel its weight. Does it seem lighter or heavier than its appearance would lead you to believe? Close your eyes, and while holding it, re-take that visual walk around its contours and surface that you did earlier with your eyes open. Try to remember every visual detail as you handle it. Now, reopen your eyes, and while still holding the object, feel and experience its texture. Is it hard, soft, rough, smooth, prickly, slick, etc? Is it a combination of textures? Think of descriptive words as you feel the textures. Are there variations in the texture -- for example, different degrees of roughness? Don't forget to write down any thoughts or ideas that may come to mind! Now, let's look at the object and focus on its components. Is it one, complete solid object, like a ball, or is it an object composed of parts like a flower with petals, leaves and stem? Consider how the parts relate to one another...where do they join, how do they contrast? Is the sum greater than the parts? Let's use our other senses at this point. Does it have a smell? Think of words to describe that sensation. Strong, light, fruity, woodsy, etc. If you could taste it, imagine how it would taste? Think words like sweet, sour, spicy, bland, etc. Try to be as specific as possible. Does it make a sound? If it does, listen to it and think of words to describe it: rustling, pinging, hollow, dense, etc. If it doesn't actually make a sound, then imagine what it would sound like if it could!

Finally, just sit and look at your object, non-judgmentally and just take it all in -- just "experience" it. Congratulations, you have just completed your first aesthetic sensitivity exercise. At this point you should have new insight into the object you have been observing and experiencing. Perhaps, and I hope this is so, you have just seen this object like you have never done so before. You might even be amazed at some aspect that you had never noticed -- even though it's been in front of your eyes for years. Remember that our goal has been to increase aesthetic awareness and sensitivity. Before you can create work like an accomplished artist, you have to be able to "see" like one. Practicing this exercise is the first step on this artistic journey.

'Till next time, Glow Bright! Liz

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