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Chasing shadows

As part of her job, my sister regularly supervises graduate theses at Columbia university. On several occasions, she has told me that designers are particularly hard to work with in this endeavor. When asked why, she will explain that people of this particular profession tend to dislike starting a large piece of work armed only with only a hypothesis (dictionary description; “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation”) instead, they will often like to start with a designed vision - meaning they have an end point in sight from the beginning. They know, or kind of know, what they want their conclusions to look like and are not really following a line of investigation to see where it takes them. This is certainly true for me. It’s just how my brain is wired. I will start any project, especially creative ones, with the vision for the end result, and work my way backwards from there. I do believe this requires a specific skill set which, whilst not ideal for thesis writing, has its own set of advantages.

Designers are often, if not always, tasked with meeting a functional need in an aesthetic manner and thus have to deal with a number of guard rails (a dress must have armholes, a living room something to sit on!...) to work with, against or around. For me, there is a sense of security in that. It limits the field and what I know about the needs of any given design, and will guide my hand through the process, giving me creative freedom to navigate around a prescribed set of variables.

This is one of the reasons why I have always admired fine artists. There are no guidelines telling them what they have to communicate or achieve. It is just them, and their medium. It is so much harder to choose what to say when a conversation has not happened. Where to start? what to talk about?

Perhaps this is why I find it hard to choose art for my home.

A few weeks ago. I started noticing different shadows on the walls at different times of day. The objects in the room and sometimes the structure of the room itself are projected onto our blank walls creating an ever changing art display. There is something lovely, simple and yet mysterious about these shapes. My husband photographed one of these moments and we posted it on Instagram last month. In the comments section I wondered, in a "thinking out loud" kind of way, how to capture these moments and make them more permanent.

To my surprise, a few people posted responses to my question, offering suggestions and opinions on how to create a projected image, or even a mural of my captured shadow. It was a sweet, exhilarating, and extremely satisfying exchange of ideas

I have to admit that I started out as a reluctant, and probably not very gracious, social media user. The @hapemanhill account was started more as a business tool than a personal need. Interactions like this one have made me appreciate and understand how incredibly constructive, supportive and creative virtual communities can be.

The exchange also offered my designer wired brain the perfect way to create art - with images that are already there!! No need to worry about choosing lines and shapes, light and shadow creates them for you!! It is just a matter for keeping your eyes open and finding a shadow you want to keep.

And so, I set out to capture the next shadow that caught my fancy. It has to be done fast, as the moving sun causes the shapes to shift surprisingly fast. With a piece of card taped to the wall, I quickly traced the outlines of the shadowed shapes with a fine pencil. Once that was done, the card came off the wall and, using grey poster paint, I colored in the shadow image.

And That is it! I am so pleased with the way this turned out and feel liberated to create more paintings that let the sun, and random objects at home, dictate the imagery. Maybe I'll even frame this one - and put it up on the wall.

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