The Beauty Formula

We read an interesting article recently in The New York Times titled, "Why We Love Beautiful Things" in which the architect and author, Lance Hosey, wrote about some of the latest research findings and his opinions on the subject.

Peony Bouquet by Ann Trusty, oil painting.
Peony Bouquet by Ann Trusty, oil painting.

The focus of his article is on all the effort and money that is being applied to attempt to quantify and systematize the sort of designs and images that appeal to most people. Studies have found that workers tend to be more productive when they can see the outdoors from their work spaces and that images of landscapes or a landscape painting can help to speed patient recovery in hospitals. Hosey writes that findings also show that the visual patterns of fractals in nature at a particular mathematical density can reduce test subjects' stress levels by as much as 60 percent, simply by being in view. The research is fascinating and seems to show our deeply rooted and strong need for nature. Is beauty archetypal?

Using the principles of beauty to inspire better design is a positive and constructive model. But the notion that art and beauty can be number and factor-crunched into a system seems too simplistic. Art cannot be defined this way, if it can be defined at all.

While the genesis for our need for beauty might be archetypal, the expression of it in any given cultural time period is a moving target and tastes in beauty tend to change. Artists are always the ones who strive to find the beauty of their age and present it to us.

Lilies in Candlelight by Ann Trusty, oil painting.
Lilies in Candlelight
by Ann Trusty, oil painting.

Art comes out of our immensely complex brain functions and radical associations of disparate ideas, some of them subconscious. Few artists can tell you how they arrive at their ideas because inspiration often comes in a flash after a period of intense work. There is a beautiful mystery in this. How do you systematize that? And if one even could, wouldn't art then lose its beauty, and like the butterfly turning back into a caterpillar, become something much less inspiring?

We welcome your thoughts on beauty. Leave a comment and let us know what your reactions are. For more interesting discussions and articles, please join us on The Artist's Road.

–John and Ann 


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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.

5 thoughts on “The Beauty Formula

  1. “Art” is a conceptual word defined only by intellectual contradictions and therefore has very little scientific meaning and is not very conducive to measurement. Conversely, “beauty” through all of the senses is thought to be more tangible in that it invokes measurable physiological changes and provokes measureable reoccurring brain patterns. The since of beauty can be evoked with a hormone shot All parents, especially mothers are hormone induced to find their infant beautiful. No! it is not really a mystery! The very same measurable hormonal process takes place in mother mice and a significant number of other gregarious mammals .

  2. “The very same measurable hormonal process takes place in mother mice and a significant number of other gregarious mammals . ”

    The hormone you refer to (oxytocin) causes uterine contractions during childbirth and is thought to promote bonding between mother and child and has nothing to do with beauty.

    Beauty, but not art…”invokes measurable physiological changes and provokes measureable reoccurring brain patterns”

    You have never had a physical reaction to an art work? Never felt the prickles up your spine from shock, recognition, fear…?

    And who said art had to be “beautiful” anyway??

  3. This article coincides with what I have often referred to as a compulsion; my need to create. I was born that way and when I get very busy and have no time for my creativity, I am not very happy. People often think that creativity is not necessary, but it is. They think they don’t have any creativity, but they do. It’s undoubtedly different from anybody else, so they don’t recognize it. Thank you for the research.