The Importance of Play

Theo and I recently watched a TEDtalk on the vital importance of play, not only in brain development, but in daily thinking and problem solving. The speaker, in part, was encouraging adults to continue to play, and at first I felt a little frustrated, because I don’t play much here. I recreate, but that isn’t the same as play. And then I realized where I do most of my playing: art. It is where I experiment and take chances; try new things, and put substance to my imagination. So in that spirit, here is where I have been playing lately.

I posted the geraniums I had painted for a neighbor already, which you can see here. I think they began to catch a sense of play in my painting. My next was a painting for myself, also of geraniums. I had a photo of geraniums on a window with French blue shutters, a very common sight here. I am trying NOT to paint all the details of real life, and yet capture the feeling the image originally gave me. I also confess to doing very little architectural painting because line and precision seems rather important to making buildings look “right.” However, I wanted this window for myself, because it felt very French to me, a memento of sorts. The results initially had a sort of mind-bending quality, a sense of M.C. Escher really. The top of the window seemed quite shallow and close, while the bottom was obviously deep enough for potted flowers. I just couldn’t keep that, but I didn’t want to repaint the whole thing. So I played with it.

These begonias have been played with, but still look "off."

These geraniums have been played with, but still look “off.”

These have had more depth and shading added. It's better, but I am still pondering.

These have had more depth and shading added. It’s better, but I am still pondering.

So, I am still thinking about altering it, but it is only for me, which means I am much more willing to forgo the work when it stops feeling like playing and just live with the imperfection. Someday it may feel like playing again, though, who knows. Regardless, I am satisfied to know that my mind is no longer twisting over the truly impossible dimensions!

The other subject that has captured my imagination is the mountain-ringed Lake Brienz. Stoney and I have so many photos, and yet my mind still swirls with how I might better capture the magical qualities of that atmosphere and area. I already showed my little watercolor pencil sketches, where I just felt I had to try to catch, with whatever pale means I had, some of what lay before me. I need a teacher in plein air painting, seriously! Well, watercolor is not one of my better mediums, but I certainly use it better than I do the watercolor pencil, and something about the mountains really suggested an effort in watercolor. The mountains were fun to play with, and not too hard to give a sense of them. I played with the sky until I felt like it was sort of what I was imagining. But the water had me stumped.

Struggling with the problem of water in watercolor?

Struggling with the problem of water in watercolor?

As I’ve mentioned in a few of my posts about visiting Switzerland, the water in the lakes is really remarkable. They are a dense turquoise I had previously only seen in pit mines. There must be some sort of constant breeze over the water that keeps it rippling and moving like it is almost at simmer. And the skies are often at least partially overcast, with a mist or at least haze over the valley. The result is a brightly colored water that usually has very little reflection. I could paint this in acrylics, but how to capitalize on the translucent quality of watercolor and still show this amazing water? I could find no online tutorial or anything with water like my memories and photos were showing me. So I got out my paints and scrap papers and played. What I ended up with is very similar to what I would do in acrylic regarding line, but with a delicate application of wet on dry, and even some lifting to keep the contrast from being too strong. I think it works fairly well.

Lake Brienz completed, probably. Maybe.

Lake Brienz completed, probably. Maybe.

I’m still toying with the possibility of bringing the rose a little more left. And the lower shadows on the fading mountains are really bugging me, so I may do something a tad drastic there, but we’ll see. That’s the fun, isn’t it?

My next attempt to exorcise the swirling images of Lake Brienz from my head will be acrylic, and probably a tad abstract. I don’t play in the abstract often, but it can be a lot of fun. After all, it truly IS play!

Do you do anything, as an adult, for playtime?



Filed under Art, Creativity

3 responses to “The Importance of Play

  1. Jennifer

    A good reminder that sometimes my riding should be for us and not for a purpose. When we’re working on something we can have fun, but I need to remember to throw in play time for me and the horse. On his own in the pasture he’ll do a big showy trot all around and then stop and snort with defiance. I love when I can be on him and do that trot for no reason but to play with him the way he plays on his own.

    • 4pam

      Oh, I love that concept! And I love that your playmate is so huge, but you still play on his terms. Did you watch the TEDtalk? The part where the polar bear played with the husky was just amazing.

  2. myriah

    the lake is beautiful! it looks almost arctic.

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