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Stephen Frey
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Three Flowers Floating and Leaves on a Pond - Nature Teaches Design


Nature’s design lies around us everyday. We just need to slow down enough to see the beauty. Canoeing with a friend one late summer’s eve on Upper St. Regis Lake, the sun began to set below the horizon, causing red and purplish tones in the sky to form and then reflect off of the water. The surreal effects created a sort of glowing reflective effect on the floating leaves and flowers.

Drifting slowly through the shallow water I found this trio of flowers forming an irregular geometry contrasting the randomly scattered leaves. Combining both with the in and out reflection of the rosy clouds a symphony of focus, counterpoint and relief greeted my eye. Here foreground, middle ground and back ground all interweave leaving a whole greater than the sum of its parts. How do you see this image? What associations rise to the surface of your mind?

As an architect I am forever looking, watching the physical world around me to capture form, line, sensing the underlying relationships between things, the power of light to transform, cycles of night and day, colors and textures. I see the power of contrast often in nature’s compositions and know this is something to capture in the design of places and spaces.

As a watercolor artist, I also watch for unusual lighting phenomena, coloration, textures and dramatic compositions. I am starting to see how my nature photography and watercolor work overlap with one another. Sometimes they feel like one and the same.

While I painted this on site one quiet, bucolic morning waiting for the sun to fully rise, you can’t hear the fish jumping, the frogs calling and the sounds of a small rural community waking up. Taking about an hour and a half to do, I fell into a reverie similar to the one I felt canoeing on Upper St. Regis Lake. Only this drew out for quite some time while the other was momentary.

While the mediums may differ, in both I found a sense of design and order which ultimately reinforces the underlying structure I sense in the nature of things. All this informs my architecture. All this comes from looking and wondering, learning to see and to sense. Cultivating creativity is a life long business!

Filed under: Design

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