I just started reading Migraine by Oliver Sacks. Sacks, a neurologist, has written many books over the years, based on case studies of some of his patients. One of his books, An Anthropologist on Mars is a favorite of mine, because the title essay is about Dr. Temple Grandin, the famous animal scientist and very well known autistic individual and advocate. He explains autism in very fundamental terms and should be required reading for anyone wishing to know more about this condition.
But I digress…
The case studies are fascinating and I commend this book to anyone interested in knowing how people with migraines see and feel the world during an attack. It might be a good idea to have an iPhone or iPad handy to look up the occasional clinical term, but other than that it is an eminently readable book.
Why would a book about migraines interest someone interested in artistic expression?
The brain rules. When working properly, it provides a person with a seamless view of reality, a reality shared by virtually everyone else who can sense the environment. However, when parts of the brain are shut down by constriction of blood vessels, or for any reason, the fabric of reality can change. A migraine sufferer may experience certain feelings that portend the onset of an attack. These feelings are called auras and might consist of tingling sensations in parts of the body; visions, such as sparkling lights; disappearance of part of the visual field or other changes in body awareness or awareness of the environment.
This might not be the case with all artists, but I would love to get a better sense of the inner working of the visual parts of my own brain. Perhaps if selected parts of the brain could be shut down, one could in essence, troubleshoot the visual processing of a scene and easily understand the pictorial elements needed to express an equivalent reconstruction. Or, working in the opposite direction: one could use one’s mind’s eye to imagine a visual scene and, by troubleshooting the imagination-to-visual-construction pathways, could capture the image before it became obscured by higher brain centers of consciousness.
In any event, I really consider myself fortunate that I do not have migraines of any kind. I believe that one can train one’s mind to eventually enable the brain image-to-hand-to-canvas link in order to create a satisfying rendering thereof. Without a direct link to the working components of the brain, it is a difficult task requiring trial and error. I can tell you that it is a good feeling when persistence pays off and a satisfying creation is the result.
These days I seem to be in a doodling mood. I am reading a lot about Hans Hofmann, so I start with rectangles and different patches of colors. I don’t seem to be able to create any tension on the paper (either by contrasting colors or forms).
Today’s doodle began with a couple of strips of color (purple and light blue). The loose narrative behind this doodle is simply, growth of a plant. I didn’t put a lot more thought into this sketch, but in the future, I hope to be able to plan a much better composition.