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.
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 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