A week of beauty
By living our routines and patterns, have you ever wondered just how much beauty we miss to notice on a daily basis?
This week we tried hard to perceive and record the beauty all around us, asking ourselves the question “what is that I find beautiful?"
I wanted to use this exercise not only to pay more attention to the tiny pleasant things of my everyday life, but also to investigate my concept of “beauty".
I tracked everything that inspired in me a sense of beauty and I surveyed my thoughts around why did I find it pleasant.
I loved this week.
As all of the other times where we focused on cheerful topics, my mood was pretty positive the whole week.
The main categories of my charming discoveries include:
- My city: the general way it attracts my eyes, the stunning skyline, the sunset over the East River, or just the cozy sensation of walking its streets;
- A person’s look: my boyfriend, a friend, a stranger I found particularly graceful, and even sometimes myself and my appearance on the mirror (see, positive mood helps!);
- Dear Data! …Stefanie’s postcards, my postcards, and the visual work Stefanie and I were doing this week on our Eyeo Festival talk;
- Colors: I realized I am often enchanted by the combination of particular colors: in visual works but also in objects all around me. Yes, color palettes in real life!
- Objects-animals: nice puppies, elegant growing plants, and - hem - my teddy bear;
- Other: here I logged things like a sentence or concept I found fascinating, or the music I loved to hear during the wee;
- MAIN SOURCE OF BEAUTY: DRESSES. I admit. I recorded so many dresses I liked during the week - clothes I saw on window shops, and on charming women walking the streets of Manhattan - that I dedicated a particular visual treatment to this category.
In my postcard every colored circle represents one of the classifications above, and every line is a singular entry, with its length indicating the level of engagement I felt, and with the type of line illustrating the sub-categories.
The colored dot on top of the lines is the reason I tracked it: did I find it cute - elegant - detailed - particular - or just beautiful?
I also added visual attributes to indicate whether I shared my sensations with somebody, or if I was maybe a little tipsy and thus finding my
surroundings more pleasant in general.
Visually, I tried to experiment.
As I always say, I have quite a hard time with radial shapes, but I tried to force me and I created these sort of colored baloons that host my singular entries: I remember Stefanie told me she liked this postcard particularly!
Comment of my boyfriend when he saw my card: “Nice to know you only find me beautiful when you are tipsy”.
My answer - you are lucky I don’t dislike to drink :-)
Look at Stefanie’s postcard! Wow! I like it a lot!
Getting to know what one finds appealing teaches us a lot about the person, I spent a great deal of time reading her visual logs.
We share many type of entries: our cities, our partners, colors, particular sounds, the sunsets, “our great data drawings” as she put it, and someone appearance-features.
She also has some very specific ones like “red hair” which I smiled at.
Honestly, I really feel I know her by now, I can tell so many things about her, and this is very beautiful, to stick with the theme!
Tracking places where we found beauty seemed a natural way to counteract the sad feelings that were amplified by a week of tracking negative thoughts. It makes sense that beauty / a pleasing aesthetic is important to both of us, as we spend our working life trying to create things that are both beautiful and functional, and so we’re always looking for aesthetic inspiration in the world around us.
I enjoyed this week because it made me realise how small pleasures can make an massive impact on one’s day or mood. I gain a disproportionate sense of joy from simply seeing something with a pleasing visual aesthetic, so in a way, it’s almost as though I am getting something lovely for nothing, which is a nice thought….I should appreciate these small things more often.
This week also surprised me because I was reminded of how much I appreciate beauty found in nature now, which is very different from when I was growing up in Colorado. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve always told people that I ‘hate nature’, and it’s become a running joke with my friends and husband. I’ve always said I ‘hated nature’ because I didn’t feel suited to living in Colorado with its range of mountains to the west, complete with a photogenic view at every turn of a mountain road. While my friends growing up were hiking, skiing, or snowboarding in the midst of this beautiful scenery, I tried to be different by distancing myself from this scene and was much happier to spend my time in a dark, sticky-floored club or concert venue instead of out under a blue sky. I counted down the days until I could move away to live in a metropolis forested with skyscrapers, not trees.
Moving forward to my life in London, and as I’ve grown older, my ‘hating nature’ stance has softened slightly. Flowers appeal to me in particular, especially in the summer. I walk through my estate every day (I live on a pedestrianised housing estate connected with footpaths that weave through clusters of houses strewn with little gardens and green squares), and I specifically choose certain paths through the estate that have the most beautiful flowers on display. I’m not quite at the stage of becoming an avid gardener (I might be too impatient/lazy), but I take pleasure in having flowers around me… such a domestic, mundane interest would come as a shock to my teenage, anti-nature grumpy self. Resting one’s eyes on natural beauty is a way of relaxing in a busy city, I guess, and I’ve become more interested in the natural world as a contrast to the hard urban environment that I’ve lived in for more than a decade.
Another part of this week that I found interesting was how I often took a second look at people with red hair… this is because my husband has red hair, so I see it as a sign of beauty and I find it striking because seeing red hair always reminds me of him. However, being married to a man with red hair does make it much easier to spot him in a crowded room, so perhaps that’s the reason for my reflexive glances: I keep thinking the red-haired people are my husband!
At the end of this week of tracking I caught a flight to Minneapolis where Giorgia and I were to meet for the first time since I saw here in NYC in October, and afterwards I spent time visiting my family outside Chicago, which meant that this week was the first postcard I drew in my American homeland. I was hanging out in my Grandmother’s house, trying to draw a postcard on the bed of my father’s teenage bedroom and getting stressed out in that special sort of way that only happens when you are surrounded by your parents and family and you revert to being a surly 16-year-old teenager again. This is the reason that this card is so simple in design: anything more would have resulted in a teenage-style temper tantrum as I tried to draw a postcard under such circumstances.
And again (and I know I say this often), this is another one of my favourite cards of Giorgia’s, particularly the part where she found her teddy bear to be beautiful, ha. Though honestly, I really just like that we both said that we found our postcards to be beautiful: this is gratifying, as when we started this project we had no idea what we were doing and this is a sign that we are gaining confidence, we’re getting somewhere...