From Nature’s Tinest Creatures to Her Broadest Feats

The patterns of nature inspire our artwork. One of the most fascinating recent discoveries is the intimate relationship between the patterns found in nature’s tiniest creations to the patterns found in her broadest, most sweeping productions. The apparent chaos of nature can now be understood in terms of repeating patterns which can be mathematically described. There seems to be an interconnectedness in the patterns and rhythms of all of nature.

A photograph of frost.
A photograph of frost.

Scientists have applied the fractal geometry discoveries of Benoit Mandelbrot to understand mathematically the patterns of the natural world. A fractal shape, when viewed in finer and finer detail, reveals that it is made of ever smaller and smaller shapes, all similar to the original shape. The smallest part looks just like the whole.

Their discoveries reveal scientifically the amazing patterns of interconnectedness in nature. A group of scientists headed by Brian Enquist traveled to a 300,000 acre conservation area in Costa Rica to see if they could use fractal geometry to calculate the carbon-absorbing potential of an entire forest. After felling a dying balsa tree, they closely measured the width and length of every branch on it. This gave them the fractal structure of the tree.

They then took a census of the forest by measuring the diameter at the base of the trees within a large plot in order to sample the distribution of sizes within the forest. As they had predicted, and according to the tenets of fractal geometry, the relative number of big and small trees very closely matched the relative number of big and small branches on the individual tree they had measured. Thus, the profile of a single specimen determines the profile of an entire forest (Hunting the Hidden Dimension, PBS)

A photograph of a feather, magnified.
A photograph of a magnified feather.

Of course, artists have always been experts at making a type of order out of chaos, but we don’t think of it as geometry. We call it beauty. The brain is hard-wired to recognize patterns and rhythms in nature, which we artists recognize as our inspiration.  By selecting and heightening certain elements of nature in our plein air painting or drawing subjects, we attempt to bring out those patterns which have importance and meaning to us. It’s nice to see that the scientists are finally catching up.

We hope you’ll join us for more interesting and informative articles at The Artist’s Road. You’ll find inspiration and encouragement for your artistic endeavors.

–John and Ann

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.