I must confess, I am not much of an “artist,” and in fact I have absolutely NO images in my head at all. You know when a character in a television program says something like, “Close your eyes and relax. Now, tell me what you see?” I am usually thinking, “It is so dark in here.” Seriously. That is why I generally leave the Creating to God, and I simply chronicle His wondrous chef d’oeuvre with my camera. Thus, when I do “create,” I must literally view and manipulate the elements on my palette. Thank You, God, for Photoshop, where I can arrange and rearrange the design elements in endless iterations—size, color, opacity, orientation, etc.—to my little OCD heart’s content.
I was recently challenged by one of my favorite photography groups to create a photographic version of a common 18th and 19th century musical technique—the variation. I imagine it is a particularly effective technique for composers to stimulate their creativity, and experiment with their themes and the habiliments with which they adorn them. The variation is a repetition of motifs or themes that are modified, amplified, and often become more elaborate and ornate as they develop. One of the most famous examples is Haydn’s Variations on a Theme that you can hear at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAuqxEMRapg. One of my favorite variations is Mozart’s 12 Variations in C, with a motif that is instantly recognizable by all Americans. A more contemporary example might be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Variations. Or try the quirky Variations on Happy Birthday by John Williams. I LOVE the Happy Birthday theme on kettle drums—very inventive! Okay, enough fun, back to the topic.
The motif I selected for my graphic Variation on a Theme is the peacock (Pavo cristatus), which is so opulent and ornate in so many shades and magnifications. I expended a full day manipulating the first three peacock heads in blue, green and gold, before I was able to analyze why I was completely dissatisfied with my progress. I was seeing, and designing “peacocks,” and I needed to stop illustrating a bird, and instead use the bird to illustrate the artwork. Following that revelation, I was suddenly creating a piece of art, a kaleidoscope of patterns and facets, which is how I had conceptualized the challenge in the first place.
The final piece has no symbolism or meaning; it is very simply variations, and a closeup examination of the beauty and majesty of God’s fabulous peacock!
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