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Sarah Peroutka – May 2009 Grad

Out-focus on Beauty

Sarah Peroutka

We are born with the ability to perceive beauty through our senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Although we rely on our senses to survive—to smell the gas leak or hear the blaring horn of the oncoming car—our senses can be utilized for higher purposes, too. This fact was recognized by the ancient Greeks and evolved into a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics which includes the study of universal values of harmony, truth and transcendence. Abraham Maslow called the appreciation of beauty a “peak experience” and thought that beauty is a value that guides us toward self-actualization. Most individuals have one or two senses that are more sensitive or highly developed than the others and this shows up as an aptitude for music, art, physical movement, etc. In my case, the aptitude for appreciating beauty and the drive to create art have been present since early childhood when I recognized that I responded positively to harmonious or intriguing colors, patterns, textures, lights and shadows, and also experienced emotional distress from disharmonious visual stimuli. It’s not surprising that I became an artist!

I paint in the medium of soft pastel which is pure pigment held together with a binder and applied by hand to a surface, usually paper. It’s a sensual experience to work with pastels because they feel buttery smooth, there’s no brush to get in the way, and the colors are so vibrant. When the weather is nice I prefer to work en plein air (outdoors).  (You can find my blog at SarahPeroutkaStudio.com and examples of my work at my online gallery through DailyPaintworks.com.) When I’m outside scrutinizing a scene and trying to decide which part of the vista to paint I’m going through a selection process similar to what we do elsewhere in life: what do I want to look at? How do I want to interpret it? What do I want to de-emphasize or exclude? During this process I feel alert, curious, and stimulated.  I also feel a little scared: Am I up to the task? Will my painting turn out all right? I’m involving not only my eyes, but my brain and emotions. Then, as I get to work by blocking in my composition and making decisions about my palette, maybe things go smoothly or maybe not. Again, just like life! When things go well I experience the transcendence of being in physically present but yet unaware time or distractions. Now that is a really good feeling, a spiritual feeling.

Some days old patterns get in the way of my desired state of being. At these times I must work hard to center myself and let go of negative thoughts. I know from personal experience that when I am looking for and appreciating beauty and when I’m translating it into a painting or other work of art I feel alive, whole, complete and in balance.  Not only do I “like” beauty, I “must experience” beauty to be my authentic self.  To look for beauty and recognize it when I see it requires out-focus. My ability to out-focus is contingent upon being present in the here and now, and I’m most adept at recognizing and appreciating beauty when I’m relaxed, alert and open to outcome. This is why my Wings work is so important to me as an artist, and this is why I want to encourage each of you to become aware of how your senses can help you become more alive and fulfilled, also.

-Sarah Peroutka