Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Farmers and whimsy and negative space
Farmers can not often be accused of whimsy, but there's a local farm family who puts out a giant turkey in time for Thanksgiving which stays put till after the holidays. The body is one of those rolls of hay or silage or whatever they are that lie around in fields like huge tootsie rolls, and the features are seasonal: pumpkins new each year, but the tail and head part I guess are stored in the barn from year to year. Always look forward to seeing it on the way home from practically anywhere around here. So I thought you'd like to see this, as one of the pix I took today on my travels
Speaking of local sights and travels, there's the question of negative space. As an artist and longtime teacher of drawing and various other arts to adults, this is one of my favorite subjects to introduce as a way of seeing much better and designing artworks that work.
It's also often completely surprising to the students to learn that the space around the objects isn't nothing! it's what holds the design up. I get people to do the classic bring in a sports photo from local paper -- they are usually brilliantly cropped with great negative space, unsung artists, those photographers-- cut around the positive shapes, keep the negative bits, the reconstruct the picture using only the negative pieces. Epiphany! it's not only fun, it's a revelation of how artists see.
This particular artist tends to overdo, however. To me the negative space is overwhelmingly obvious to the point of sometimes being unable to figure out the positive image. This is why I use a pc not a Mac -- the Mac icons might as well be written in Martian for my understanding. son, the Mac professional, tries hard to see this. But look, Mom, it's obviously a TOOLBOX! not an abstract well balanced design....
To the point also where, after many many years of traveling the Garden State Parkway, hereinafter known as the GSP, I finally only recently came to read the icon correctly that I needed to follow in order to get to the coin-only bin at each county interchange. These come up a couple of miles ahead, and since the GSP management is held captive to what each county, the custodians of the interchanges, decides, about placement of the various parts of the interchange, they have tried to make the graphics huge and obvious.
So you are supposed to know a bit ahead of time which is the coin only, which is the token, well, that's phased out now, which is the receipt offered and which, God forbid is EasyPass, which if you accidentally drive through it, unforgivingly takes your picture and sends a summons if you are not an EasyPass transponder owner. Big fine.
Anyway, most of the icons on the side of the road are pretty clear. Except that the one I usually need, the coin, exact change, one, looked to me for years like a well balanced very nicely constructed abstract graphic.
It was in the course of demo'ing negative space to a class that I suddenly realized for the first time that this graphic was in fact a hand dropping coins into the bin.....aieeee. Class fell about laughing when I explained this.
So yesterday, it struck again. I was peacefully coming home past the county park, where there was a great big sign, cutout letters in red, coming up, against a background of dark green shrubs. This point is important in my defense, since red and green are complements, and each makes the other pop. Anyway, I studied the letters and wondered if if was in maybe Hindi (we have a huge subcontinent population) or maybe Arabic, since Eid is this week, and only after I'd passed it did it flip in my mind and make sense: Happy Holidays.
All I can say is duh.