"Art is where you find it. Art is all around us, always."
These sentiments were conveyed to a class of sleepy-eyed Grade 10 students several decades ago by Jose Salas, the art teacher at our high school. I was one of those students who was trying really, really hard to wake up for that first class on a Monday morning.
But something must have stuck, because Mr. Salas' words have guided me for many years.
Nature, which is all around us, always, constantly provides us with inspirational sights and vistas of artistic glory. It's been said that all art created by mankind is but a reflection of what nature has provided.
Look at any artwork and you will see that the elements of the natural world are present: the blend of colour, the texture, the size and shape of the piece, the theme, the very material itself … all are compared, although sometimes subconsciously, to what we've seen naturally outdoors.
If an abstract or impressionistic painting somehow strikes a chord within your soul, or looks familiar for some reason, is it because there is in the presentation the controlled chaos of colour you once witnessed in a meadow of asters and ferns?
Do the colours blend as they do in a rainbow or across the horizon of a glorious sunset? Every art piece, if dissected to death by critics and analysts, will come back to a state of natural elements.
When it comes to rainbows, window frost, autumn leaves and morning dew on webs, we have absolutely nothing to do with these creations yet can be stopped in our tracks by the attractive beauty.
While scientific explanations can be found for each colour in a leaf, for the array of colour in a rainbow or why moisture in the air suddenly clings to whatever is nearby, it is, in its most basic terms, art.
Why do we place art in our homes? Perhaps to relax us, or to inspire us, or to remind us of the real world. Sure, there are many negative pressures on our environment, but there are also innumerable moments of beauty.
During this spate of nasty weather, with laneways having turned to ice rinks and sidewalks becoming cross-country training tracks, it helps to occasionally trip over some really good art.
And I mean that literally... for as I dragged out the recycling bins to the roadside, I tripped over a frozen display of magnificent swirls and curves, shades of brown and yellow, a masterful delta scene of water flow.
And so there I stood, cold wind lashing my open neck, transfixed by a scene so beautiful that it stood out as 'one-of-a-kind', a very special moment shared by Nature to me. I know, that sounds a little odd, but really, it was a unique sculpture of sand and ice.
The following day, as temperatures rose again and fog began to form in quiet country valleys, Nature again got creative.
While I've always had a love of mist and fog, it doesn't always occur at a time to coincide with a pause in my busy daily agenda. So when everything does align, magic happens.
When the fog is just the right density, when the sunlight above is just the right intensity, when the wet dark tree trunks are just the right serenity, the moment has come to... stop. Look. Listen. Take it in.
Become lost in time and location (okay, so don't do this if you're halfway across a crosswalk). It will change within minutes and you must focus on becoming a part of the ephemeral scene. So worth it.
Good nature photographers and artists have an eye for isolating a scene within a scene.
While others may see a forest, these folks see individual trees, singular leaves, a blending of colour hues within bark patterns.
Yes, it sometimes takes a bit of direction and training to "see" natural art, but when you do find a special scene, it's yours. It will become a memory and a touchstone for you to connect with the natural world.
Go on, get outside ... go find a natural gallery of artistic masterpieces! Nature and art are all around us, always.