One of the most fundamental aspects of aesthetics is to make you see, hear, feel, touch, and smell something that makes you know and sense you are fully alive.
But what are the elements that facilitate such a state of being? My favorite daily study in the past six months has been looking at art books every day. Recently I spent a half day at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt looking at four different art encyclopedias. My method has been simple: I flip through pages of art books and intuitively let my eyes be guided by the power of an image. Once it captures me that is my A-Ha moment. I will share with you what I have discovered in how I have studied the power of the image. That is, how an image captures my authentic appeal, attention, attraction, attention, and affection, which creates the sentiment, attitude, and outlook for this dolce life worth living.
There is no strict formula. Sometimes gravitating to an image can be a matter of luck and intuition. And maybe both.
Sometimes an image has the right form, mass, and volume on the page or museum with the right background and artistic base. Personally and as a matter of taste, I don’t usually ease into images with religious and royal themes. Come on, there’s been plenty of that! And though I’m honored that six generations ago my grandfather, John Russell, was on the Royal Academy and Court of the British Empire, he dedicated his career to pastel portraits of elites. I favor women, indigenous, and whatever is rare and random that comes across as unusual and queering to the eye.
The right symbol or iconography can do the job. The right metaphor or message for life can also capture the attention of our curious eyeballs. If the image has some ambiguity of form and function it might or might not work. Obviously, there is an inherent bias, sentiment, attitude, and outlook for what visual I seek to welcome into my inner life. Any image that highlights war and sorrow usually doesn’t favor me well. I seek to receive a profound impression of what artists have found genius in the story of our species. I seek to receive a profound impression of our better natures. That is what I find a good use of our potential, leaping us into a vision of the possible with this essential and ancient genre of life.
Size may matter as I scan pages. Sometimes a small object or figure can stand out more than anything large and with greater volume. Color always soothes or distracts. I’ve noticed how large feathers and ears on a page can stand out favorably. So it is interesting how those peculiar elements can intrigue. Expression never fails. An image that expresses a drama is not to be missed, for it brings forth an authentic truth to the story told. The basic function and the true artistic spirit of a piece can transcend shortcomings of form. Of course, form is important but much more in the eye of the beholder. Where there are desire and passion the message will come across and be felt, seen, adopted, and remembered. Where desire and passion are found identity is born, and many times that is obvious and simple to grasp for the naked eye! You know it when you see and feel it! It's got to be bold with courage and express heart and love. It ain't simply original and creative for seeing and expressing something new and different. Sometimes it just grabs you. C'est la vie!
So beloveds, flipping through thousands of pages of art has taught me that intuition is perhaps the most overlooked and underutilized innate skill that we all have as humans. I say to you: what is the power of an image? Study it and I’d treat you to lunch to discuss it anytime!