Seeing the seasons
It’s spring outside, and for some of us that doesn’t mean much more than leaving coats in the closet and maybe starting to think about ice cream and summer fruits. But the changing of the seasons is a big, important and dramatic event in the natural world – and it can bring new interest and meaning to your work and perhaps even your life if you start paying attention to it.
For some artists, this is obvious; landscape artists are naturally sensitive to the seasons and the conditions of the world because they have a direct impact on the scenes they paint and the images that are available to them. Even there, though, there may be something to learn. Often artists simply go out in search of a place that speaks to them, and this can be great. But sometimes, it’s worthwhile planning in advance so that you end up with just what you were looking for – and this means thinking ahead.
In his exhibition at the UK’s Royal Academy this year, David Hockney explained his love of hawthorn, a plant that is common in the area around his Yorkshire home. It has inspired much of his work, and he knew that he wanted to make a series of paintings focusing on it. However, the plant only buds for a very short time once a year – so he and his assistants planned carefully beforehand to make sure that they could make the most of that brief window. For paintings that tracked its changes over the year, he similarly had to work out when he’d want to be looking at it next. Of course, most artists don’t need to be quite that specific, but if your work is influenced by nature in any way it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about when which plants bud, or what time is best to capture the animals you’re interested in. Forward planning of this kind can help you avoid disappointment.
If you’re not particularly interested in nature per se, but you do work in figurative art, the seasons matter to you too. The light changes considerably depending on the time of year, and paying attention to its differences and the kinds of consequences this has for what you’re seeing is both useful and fascinating. It’s particularly applicable to photographers, but can enrich paintings and drawings as well.
Even if you’re an abstract artist and deliberately avoid incorporating recognizable objects in your work, the seasons still have things that they can teach you. Mood and atmosphere are greatly affected by the kinds of changes that come with the seasons, such as color, color combinations and light, and all of these variables matter in helping you create the image you have in mind.
Increasing your sensitivity to the world around you and what’s going on in it can only improve your work, whether or not you’re interested in art that represents anything you see. The details you’ll only notice if you’re paying attention, both big and small, combine to form a broader, richer understanding and imagery than you would otherwise have. And aside from that, you might even find it fun!
How do the seasons influence your work? Let us know in the comments.