A walk in the park / by Jeannine Cook

I have always believed that artists are, to an extent, deeply influenced by the world around them. The art that we produce reflects our environment, our optic on life and an understanding of life that is very personal. Granted, when artists are commissioned to produce art, that is a different situation as someone else is dictating requirements for the art and its content. But if an artist is just producing art driven by his or her own passion and vision, then that art is often a mirror of that artist and the surrounding world.

As society grows more urban, it is inevitable that the art produced will reflect more urban concerns, ethos and mores. That is the world in which the artist moves, to a great extent. The artists who live in more rural settings are frequently producing a different type of art, influenced by their surroundings, whether consciously nor not.

I found it interesting, in this context, to read of new research done by Marc G. Berman at the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In a recent study, he tested people who had been walking either in a park or in downtown streets. Those who had been for a walk in the park had higher scores for memory and attention. The conclusion was that a natural environment, one that man has been used to since time immemorial, favoured mental reflection and restoration. Conversely, an urban setting, with traffic distractions, noise, people - all visual and auditory stimulation - required full attention and didn't allow mental peace.

.  Rhythms of the Old Wharf, watercolour, Jeannine Cook artist

.  Rhythms of the Old Wharf, watercolour, Jeannine Cook artist

I could not help wondering if those factors do not also play into the creation of art - of all forms - as well. Peace and quiet, in today's world, are rare, and the complex beauty of nature is also often hard to find. I know that if I am drawing or painting, even in the studio, and I run into a problem, a walk (beneath the magnificent live oaks, along a sandy lane fronting the marshes and salt water creek near my home), is sure to sort out my head and thus help me forward in the artwork. Of course it is a personal preference, but I am always delighted to return to rural quiet when I have been in a big city. It really is a case of chacun a son gout - to each, his choice - but it does seem to show up in the art we all produce.