The All-Aboutness of Art

Art is all about spontaneity, right?

It’s mid-February and I’m resting on a bench helpfully placed about 3/4 of the way through one of my regular walks in Gilbert, AZ. (Helpfully, if puzzlingly. I mean, how did they know? )

Looking up, I see striking bare branches against a background of last year’s harvest of leaves, now yellow and brown.

I play with depth of field a little bit in the field, as it were. At my winter rental home, I play with cropping and filters a little bit, and ta da! A masterpiece is born. Or at least a photograph.

Bare branch with yellow and brown leaves in background

February 13

Two weeks later, I rest again on the same bench but see a different view overhead.

Bare branch with new green leaves in background

February 26

A notion stirs in the depths. Why not take pictures of the same view, from the same vantage point, showing Spring’s progression? It would be a wee photography project for me. Maybe I could use them in a video, with cool transitions.

“Wee” turns out to be le mot juste (or la palabra justa, in that place, perhaps) for I take only two more shots before the emerging leaves close in entirely and my time in Gilbert comes to an end for 2017.

Bare branches with mature green leaves in background

March 14


Branches with new leaves fully emerged

March 22

But when I compare my second shot to my first, I am less than gruntled. The change wrought just by two weeks shines through, all right, but the effect is less than I had envisaged because the shots are not similar enough. It turns out that my visual memory is not reliable enough. Given that the first shot is now irrevocably changed (oops), I can’t even start again and try for a closer match.

Art is all about planning, right?

Art seems to demand both spontaneity and planning. Unfettered creativity is unlikely to give me the results I want; lock-step stodginess is unlikely to give me results that anyone wants.

As with art, so it is with life. With the art of living, if you will.


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6 Responses to The All-Aboutness of Art

  1. Judith Umbach says:

    An interesting project all the same. Art is definitely not about perfection. I do like the first one the best – perhaps spontaneous views are close to perfection. On the other hand, in touring around art galleries these past few weeks, I viewed some masterpieces that the painters worked on over many years. If art were a formula, perhaps we would all be artists.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – As a stand-alone photo, the first one is my favourite, too. Indeed, it’s maybe the only one I’d have bothered to keep, sans a project focus. The experience certainly taught me that “through time” series require a little more attention to detail, and gave me a new appreciation for video artists!

  2. Your photoshoot is a great idea. Same time of day? Same exact view?
    A friend did this of the sidewalk in front of his downtown house. Fascinatingly different each day (for months).

    John sat in the exact same spot for 18 days in a row and painted what he saw. Through rain, wind, sun, overcast. It was spring, so things developed interestingly. (It rain most days, alas.) It would have made a good exhibition: just those 50-60 paintings in one long row.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Hmm. Same bench, same tree/branches overhead, but as you see, not the exact same view. Maybe I sat in a slightly different place, or zoomed more on the first one. Certainly the crotch of branches so visible in the first shot was never again so clear – not to my eye and not in the photo. As for time of day – close, I think, but not exact. So much to think about!

  3. Jim Taylor says:

    Photos of ourselves — I’m thinking more of the portrait kind than of selfies — provide a kind of photoshoot sequence of the changes in our lives. But we rarely line them up sequentially so that we can see the wrinkles develop, or whatever.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – I’ve seen albums where a child was posed the same way for their annual birthday photo (back when photography was film and film was expensive). Then the second child was photographed in the same location/pose, too. Never mind that they were born in winter, not fall, making the outdoor shots a little trickier. Sometimes we have to suffer for art.

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