I have always loved words. All languages fascinate me. Among the words I most enjoy are those that describe groups of things. We’re quite familiar, for example, with a pride of lions, but did you know that a group of baboons is known as a congress? A few of my personal favorites:
- A cauldron of bats
- An intrigue of kittens
- A scurry of squirrels
- A gang of buffalo
- A parade of elephants
- A conspiracy of lemurs
Who thinks up these things? I don’t know, but they’re all so much fun. And keep in mind, these are only a few of the collective nouns in the English language.
And what do these creatures have to do with art? No, I’m not going to attempt becoming a wildlife or animal artist — although I do love seeing works by talented artists, many of whom use their art to help endangered animal species.
Animals are part of nature, of course, so maybe in my daily drawing practices I will sketch living, breathing creatures from time to time. I’m not too likely to encounter any elephants or lemurs in the neighborhood, but we certainly do have lots of squirrels. Now, how do I persuade one to pose for me?
Those squirrels usually wreak havoc in my herb garden. So far this year they’ve steered clear of the herbs, but they’ve almost destroyed a tomato plant by digging around it. As usual, though, I digress. Let me get back to the point.
It’s a rainy morning. It’s wet, dreary, and gloomy. This isn’t a good morning to drive to the park. It’s not even a very good morning for taking a walk. It’s a perfect morning for sitting on the front porch, however. So that’s where I did my daily nature drawing.
Now that I’ve learned to simply relax and enjoy the process, letting my mind wander off into some mystic Zen-land, I thoroughly enjoy my sketching time, no matter the results. It’s not about creating perfection in art, I’ve learned. It’s about the process, and it’s about representation more than resemblance. These were ideas I struggled with in the past, not fully understanding their meanings and applications. Through my experience now with what I call “meditative art”, I’m beginning to understand.
So, this morning as I sketched the oregano flourishing in my herb garden, I came up with a collective word of my own. What do you call lots of oregano growing in a pot? I called it an illusion. That’s what all art is. Even the most realistic medium — photography — still creates only an illusion of what’s before the lens.
It feels good to know that I don’t have to create an exact drawing of oregano. What I draw at any point may or may not resemble the actual subject. Instead, it will represent what I’m drawing — along with what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling, what I’m experiencing each day. Of course, you may not see all those things in my simple sketches, but I know they’re there.
I enjoyed looking at the lights and shadows — even on this wet, gloomy morning — and if my drawing doesn’t really look a lot like oregano, I don’t care. It’s not oregano. It’s only an illusion of it.