Staff Blogger: Ellen Venema, Rhein Center Assistant Coordinator

Rhein Center January 2016 Blog (1)“The highest exercise of imagination is not to devise what has no existence, but rather to perceive what really exists, though unseen by the outward eye – not creation, but insight.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Table-Talk

So far, Ohio winter has been a bit underwhelming. Some may prefer these warmer temperatures and lack of ice and snow to the harshly frigid winter we encountered last year, but my personal philosophy on winter is – if it’s going to be cold and miserable, at least let there be glittering snow to look at!

As an artist, I’ve always found the Midwest winter landscape to be rather uninspiring with its lack of vegetation and vivid hues. However, that all changed due to one of my most treasured bits of wisdom gleaned from four years of college… a deeper understanding of beauty in winter.

Rhein Center January 2016 Blog (2)I had just returned from my semester abroad and, instead of literature courses in my major language, I planned a schedule full of art: 2-D, 3-D and digital graphic design. So began an unintentional career drift, an enjoyably interesting and bumpy ride that has led me back to Lakeside.

I will be forever grateful to my art professor for opening my eyes to the elusive colors that fill a desolate January countryside and nudging open the artistic corners of my mind.

Now, when I’m outdoors in winter, I appreciate unveiled trees etching the skyline with pale lavenders and dusty oranges, rambling harvested fields glowing with golden ochers and earthen browns, roadside forests and weeds brimming with rich maroons and an endless palette of evergreens.

Above it all, the persistent cloud cover can be a sculpted symphony of silvers, whites and violets, while that familiar brilliant blue visits to remind me that spring really isn’t so far away.

Rhein Center January 2016 Blog (3)It’s not the bright rainbow of spring flowers, the lush oasis of summer greenery or the warm kaleidoscope of autumn leaves, but winter’s palette brings a subtle reassurance that there is still life in the cold and barren landscape around us.

This all began with a weekly sketchbook assignment. We were instructed to make a quick little sketch of seven ‘Daily Exceptional Images’ and to write an accompanying descriptive sentence for each. It certainly doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, just a colorful phrase to help train your eyes to find the beauty in the smallest details.

I encourage you and your family to try this and begin your very own art journal. Enjoy the hunt for natural beauty and see what jumps out at you. Starting this project in winter will make you work for your discoveries and appreciate them all the more. Let it challenge your perception and enrich your life.

Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table