Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Case for Synthesis

I fell in love with the work of Ann Hechle in the 1980's. She is an elegant calligrapher with a style that is at once both clean and complex, she has a way of using colour that is subtle and engaging. I tried to get her to come to Toronto to teach but she was unable to because of  family commitments. And so I packed my bags and headed to the University of Sunderland in northern England for a conference where she was teaching. To be honest I had no idea what it was she was teaching. I didn't care. The course was on Sacred Geometry and that week changed my artistic life.

Ann, pictured here in her younger years and in later life, started our first day with a piece of white paper and a stone that she had found on a nearby beach. The stone was round and smooth and dark. She worked her magic with it, moving it around on a sheet of white photocopy paper. Her voice was quiet, slow paced, thoughtful. She wove a spell with that rock and taught me more about design in that first hour than anyone before or since. My attraction to stones and natural forms had been strong before. After that day, the attraction became an obsession. And yes, I went to that nearby beach and found a stone to bring home as an aide-mémoire.

I have had the opportunity to study with Ann a number of times and each time I come away richer for the interaction with her brilliant mind. Each time I have arrived in her class as a different student because I have taken the time to practise and use the lessons I learned in her classes and in others. Each time I have allowed the process of synthesis to take place.

And this process of synthesis, the lessons I learned with the stone and with all the other stones and natural shapes I have studied in the ensuing years, shapes and images that have seeped into my artistic vocabulary until I reach for them without thinking, are the reasons that the newest official  tangle, Spoken, speaks so eloquently to me. It is why I bring to you the case for synthesis and urge you to work in ways that will let a similar process create magic for you. Not so that you can create my imagery but so that you can create your own.

What compels me towards Spoken (and its kissing cousin Arukas) is that it encapsulates the design energy that I felt during the Sacred Geometry class when we explored not only the power of one but also the power of the other numbers that inform the history of western design without our even being aware of them. What is magic about Spoken is that it is a practically failure proof way of dividing space that creates a balanced, energetic, vibrant dynamic on the page. Take a breath, draw an ovoid anywhere on your page. Follow the simple steps to create Spoken. Try it for yourself.

But more importantly, think about the classes you have taken recently. What were the big ideas you took away. Give yourself the gift of time to fully immerse yourself in the lessons and watch how they inform your work and make you grow. This is the gift of synthesis.


  1. It is so very amazing that this evening...about an hour before I read this post, I painted two rocks. I never paint rocks...but I picked up two smooth and lovely rocks in my travels from Fl to WI in a special spot I wanted to remember. Sometimes the things you say just resonate with me, luv.
    ginnystiles.blogspot.com. I love your info on Ann Hechle and I promise to try "Spoken". When I do I shall think of you and all the lovely things you share with me.

  2. Well writ. I find that too, that when a tangle, method, idea, gets into my SUBconscious, that's when some magic happens. It pops up out of 'nowhere' and I think, "what a good idea!" :)
    My favorite piece above is the path-way with fancy stones passing through.


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