On a few occasions now, Tom has taught art in a spiritual context. Why? Because if you approach it in the right way, then trying to draw something leads to a depth of engagement with it. Most of the time our eyes slide off surfaces and our brains see what we think is there, not what is actually happening. Slowing down to really look creates an entirely different engagement with the world.
For the first half of this year, I spent most of my afternoons as a graphic novel colourist. While I’ve always been interested in visual art, I’ve never worked on this scale before, and it taught me a lot. One of the things it taught me was to really look at light. The quality of light has a huge influence on how everything appears. Twilight is wholly different from noon. Indoors lighting with candles is very different from being outside, and so on and so forth.
One of the direct consequences of doing the art, was a radical increase in how much time I’ve spent paying attention to the sky. I have discovered that a lot of the time, what the sky really does is wilder and weirder than anything I would dare to put on a page. Skies that look painted, and where the ‘brush strokes’ are visible. Skies full of wonderfully improbably colours. Clouds in shapes that are far too representative.
Light affects mood. Cold and harsh light has a very different emotional impact to warm light, and while we might not process that consciously, the impact is with us every day. Natural light has a different effect to artificial light. Having periods of fading light, twilight and gloom affects me in significant ways. We tend to wipe out the lower light periods from our lives with artificial light, and we don’t get as much proper darkness as we should.
Colour of course is nothing more than light bouncing off things and interacting electronically with tiny sensors in our bodies. Your distribution of rods and cones affects what you can see, if you can see. Some of us see more colours than others, some of us better process light than others. There are some people who don’t see colours in the same ways as the majority, and others for whom a colour is also a note, or a smell or some other thing. Colour is a very subjective thing. We all have emotional responses to colour that have elements of personal experience in them. Whether red is sexy or angry for example. Whether pink is girly, or a strong colour. Whether lots of white is soothing, or maddening…
When we come to a place, or an image, we bring all that personal history of colour with us, getting an experience purely our own. Trying to make a visual thing impact on people in specific ways is nigh on impossible, but art isn’t really about what’s possible, when you get down to it.