Part 2. My last posting related how I first became aware of flow patterns in nature, a knowledge that expanded my visual perception. Thus began my search for more patterns characteristic of flowing elements. Over the year-long odyssey, I came up with seven, and have since separated them into eight patterns. Other painters might include more (or lump them together), but these seemed to me the core of a simple visual flow language. My list includes: curving flow, branching, waves, ripples, spirals (on a flat plane), vortex (whirlpool), radial, and meanders (‘s’ shaped curves).

So where do you find “curving flow”? The pattern is linear. Look for tide-lines on the beach, river current, cirrus clouds in the sky, stress lines in an old tree trunk, etc.

Branching patterns: trees, shrubs, plants of all kinds, grasses, wildflowers, water courses such as creeks and rivers, lightning, clouds.

Wave patterns: waves on a water surface, waves in Stratocumulus and Cirrus clouds in the sky (also called Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds), waves along the top edge of fog (I saw huge wave forms once out on top of a fog bank in the Utah desert, an amazing sight). Waves that are in motion don’t last long.

Ripples are waves that line up in a dense rhythmic pattern: lake surface, ocean surface, any water surface can be rippled by wind, ripples can also be found on a sandy beach or creek bank, cloud ripples are called “undulatus”, or look for wind ripples on a field of grain.

Spirals: developing ferns, bighorn sheep horns, some succulents, head of a sunflower, red cabbage in cross section, plants that have curling tendrils for climbing, seashells, snail shells.

Vortex: whirlpools, funnel clouds (called “tuba”), waterspout on the ocean, dust devil on the desert, seashells.

Radial: rounded forms found in flowers, trees, shrubs, cumulonimbus clouds, foam, bubbles.

Meanders: (scientific designation of form that curves back on itself in a snakelike pattern): waterway snaking across a flat meadow; desert canyons carved by meandering water; snake movement.

Now it’s your turn to go hunting for flow patterns. Take a walk in your neighborhood or local park or even a stroll around the backyard. Bring along a pencil or pen and a small notebook or sketchbook. Jot down each flow pattern you see or make a simple sketch of it. Label it. A simple map is easy to draw, so you can mark locations. Make note of anything else of interest. Be sure to look up at the sky. You might collect a cloud. Good hunting!
Good reading: The Road to Beaver Park, Painting, Perception, and Pilgrimage, by Janice E. Kirk, Resource Publications, Wipf & Stock Pub., Eugene, OR: 2016.           Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bookstores. 


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