Looking at this painting every day for a week has got me to thinking about ordinary beauty.
For me, the easiest way to elevate the ordinary has been to look out at the world as if looking through the eyes of a painter. It's a great way to make things look more beautiful.
I often experience this change of perception from looking at art. James and I went to a Van Gogh retrospective at the Art Institute some years ago. Many of Van Gogh’s paintings have a physical texture (impasto). Here's Van Gogh's 1899 painting Olive Trees:
I’ve also experienced a change in visual perception from reading poetry. The visionary poet, Percey Shelly, wrote: “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”
There are many poems that lift the veil. Here’s an example from Gerard Manly Hopkins:
GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 5
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 10
I read Hopkins poem as a boy. Since then I’ve sometimes noticed the pied beauty in front of me. One such moment came last spring, when James and I were walking in the Chicago Botanic Garden. The crabapple trees were in bloom along the path to Evening Island. But it was the dappled light—and the memory of Pied Beauty—that caught my eye and led to this photo:
Bathroom Window, 2011 - Oil on Canvas & Panel, 28" x 22" - painting by Michael Banning
Olive Trees, 1899, Oil on Canvas - painting by Vincent Van Gogh
Crab apple Trees at the Chicago Botanic Garden - photo by David Greene, April 2012
Mackerel Sky photo by Nick Fraser. Dunston Fen, Lincolnshire, December 2005.