Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Challenge Week One: The Beach

Challenge #1: The sea-side has its own unique culture, and can be evoked in many ways, through colors, textures and scents, or even through sounds or activities. This week you are encouraged to use as a point of inspiration the beach, especially the experience of going to the beach and your beach related memories. (If you have never been to the beach you can do this exercise with a local swimming spot or lake-side destination.) Key to this challenge is considering: What sensory experiences make up your memories or sense of being at the beach? What memories of the beach do you have? Who are you with? What does the beach mean to you (or even represent)? How is the beach you go to unique from other beaches? Relaxation and play are key ingredients for creative thinking—if the beach is not near, is there a way to evoke a “life’s a beach” frame of mind? With these as your touch-points, this week capture your memories of the beach or, if possible, plan an ocean-side Artist Date. Record in your sketchbook any inspiration, ideas, illustrations, or thoughts and share here on The Paper Compass.

Growing up in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, our family tradition was to go to the beach every Sunday, where we would sit in a large group with my dad’s family—my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and cousins—and sometimes other families that our parents were good friends with. As a kid, nothing was better than Sunday mornings on the beach, building sand castles, listening to the adults talk and laugh, and spending hours jumping off the low wall from the parking lot into the soft sand. On the way there, my parents would always pick up a dozen doughnuts, and sometimes even Munchkins. Jelly doughnuts were my favorite even if it was sometimes difficult to distinguish sandy finger prints from granulated sugar. (To this day though, I still crave Dunkin Donuts on Sunday mornings.)

My grandfather was always one of the first people to go in the ocean, no matter how cold. I remember that he had a special pair of rubber-bottomed, net shoes that he would wear in the water so that he would not cut his feet on the barnacles on the rocks. My dad and I would go out to meet him, my dad helping me past the waves. We would join Grandpop where it was just deep enough for me to not be able to touch. I would bob under the surface until I could push myself back up with my toes and doggy paddle, circling my dad. Grandpop would float on his back in the water for long stretches of time, his net shoes pointing up toward the sky.

At the end of the day, we would go back to my dad’s white Volkswagen bus (the same kind you see in grainy pictures of Woodstock) and slide back the door and the heat from the summer day would roll out at us like an invisible wall of fire. The white naugahyde seats would be so hot that they’d burn the back of your legs. We would cover every inch of them with towels, now damp and sandy. Then we would climb in and roll the windows down one struggling crank at a time, and slide the back windows open as far as they would go. On the drive home the wind would dry your skin leaving a film of ocean salt and sand.

The beach and summertime have always gone together in my life, with the exception being the decade that we lived in Florida. Even then though, the beach with its breezes was a least a place to take refuge from the humidity, the sun and heat being inescapable. For many, going to the beach, for a day or a week, represents a summer tradition. It is a destination cultivated around sunlight, heat and free time.

Being at the beach contains a certain liberation from daily life unlike other destinations. It is a location that invites you to breathe deep, take in the vast uninterrupted expanse of the ocean, and partake in two traditional beach behaviors: relax or play. In a way, the beach encompasses all of the most treasured values of summertime.

The beach is also rich in sensory experiences that make our memories of it very powerful and evocative. Luckily much of what gives us a sense of place at the beach has to do with things that to this day remain unchanged, making it easy to evoke memories through something as simple as the scent of suntan lotion, a salty breeze, or even certain colors.

All of this is inspiration for the first Summer Challenge: The Beach. The sea-side has its own unique culture, and can be evoked in many ways, through colors, textures and scents, or even through sounds or activities. This week you are encouraged to think about or use as a point of inspiration, the beach—especially the experience of going to the beach and your beach related memories. (If you have never been to the beach you can do this exercise with a local swimming spot or lake-side destination.) Key to this challenge is considering: What sensory experiences make up your memories or sense of being at the beach? What different memories of the beach do you have, who are you with? What does the beach mean to you or even represent? How is your beach unique from other beaches? Relaxation and play are key ingredients for creative thinking—if the beach is not near, is there a way to evoke a “life’s a beach” frame of mind?

With this as your touchpoint, this week capture your memories of the beach or, if possible, plan an ocean-side Artist Date. Record in your sketchbook any inspiration, ideas, illustrations, or thoughts and share here on The Paper Compass.


PS. The image for this post is a painting that my dad created. It is much enjoyed in my family for its open interpretation of the image: either a calm sea with a breaking wave in the foreground or when flipped upside-down a sea with menacing sky.



1 comment:

  1. A great example of being inspired by The Beach: Quercus Design http://quercusdesign.blogspot.com/2011/07/driftwood-july-4-2011-beachcombing.html showcases photographer Jennifer Booher's experiences, artifacts and objects found along the Maine coast.

    ReplyDelete