When I have a brush in my hand while painting a set for a theatre production – I’ve just finished one for Mosinee Community Theatre’s “Something Rotten,” which runs this weekend – I often repeat a motto to anyone assisting me or even just aloud to myself: “30 Feet.” The purpose behind the motto is to remind myself that the audience observing a finished set design is sitting anywhere from 30 to 230 feet away, and that this distance allows blemishes, mistakes or heavy-handedness to actually add to the illusion I’m trying to create. There’s no need to focus too closely on every little stroke of paint because the eye won’t perceive them as mistakes from 30 feet away. Distance is my friend when it comes to the art form I practice.
From “9 to 5” I have been putting together the design for this year’s Birds in Art catalogue, featuring the work of 2023 Master Wildlife Artist Paul Rhymer. As I scour over Paul’s work, trying to best represent the beauty of his art in the design, I have noticed the opposite of my “30 feet” motto to be true. Rhymer’s work can certainly be enjoyed from 30 feet away. However, as I’ve taken the time to observe his bronze sculptures up close, there’s more to enjoy the closer you get. It’s almost as though you can see Paul’s hands lingering in his work. As I examine his rich, sculpted textures on a macro scale, I can start to imagine his intentions. Paul probably has a motto closer to “30 inches.”
This contrast has added some much-needed balance to my life over the last couple weeks. While spending many hours focused on every minute detail of the Birds in Art catalogue has been rewarding, spending many hours focused on something less delicate, as a theatre set is, has allowed me to enjoy both processes more. This yin-yang energy has been an added boost to keep pushing me across the finish line of both projects. Perspective sure has a funny way of changing an experience.