Taste buds do it. Ear worms do it. Lurking scents do it. Words do it. Dreams do it.
If I see a picture of french fries I can actually taste them. Play a Joni Mitchell song for me and I will hum it for weeks. If I smell Old Spice aftershave I think of my father. If I see a drawing that speaks to me I’ll find hints of it in my stitching. I think one of the reasons I make art is to catalog all of the influences in my life. I want to leave a record of my thoughts.
I am receptive and susceptible to outside influences. It is often beyond my control.
I’m reading about the history of cancer (The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee). A second book about the biome of bacteria we live among (Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live by Rob Dunn). I just finished 1491, a book about the millions of people who were in the “new” world before the Europeans got here (1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann) . Their story and how the explorers of today are unearthing the truth behind it simply entrances me.
And how do these three non-fiction books relate to my art practice? They make me think. They bring up imagery that I didn’t have before reading them. They turn on the receptors in my brain, enliven my curiosity and add to the library of imagery that I might incorporate into my work.
Here’s how reading non-fiction can change the way I work.
This layout has been on my design wall for a number of months. I couldn’t finish it because it didn’t have any meaning to me. Just a pretty picture. I liked the colors but not the layout. It lacked something important.