Design, art, photography and even typography, are aesthetic fields that demand a unique perspective that only the gifted few can create, but will find great resonance with many. The aesthetics found in art and design defies rigidity, and boldly expresses its beauty in non-conformance.

As a retired artist, I retain my artistic sensibilities, because they help me in my current role as a creative director, copywriter, and educator. I am gratefully gifted with the gift of seeing things in a unique perspective, one shared by my creative peers. Even as I no longer meld the ink on a brush to paper as I did once as a Chinese painter, I am appreciative and admire those of my peers who bravely carry on the lineage of artistic expression. It is these peers of mine who inspire many, like me.

There are some, however, without the same artistic perspective, might imagine that aesthetics, whether in design, or art, or sculpture, or photography, is something uniform and conforming in nature. They would imagine a cube, a square, a centered portrait in a photograph, to be their own ideas of aesthetics.

How wrong they are! Let me very briefly show a few examples of art, sculpture and even iconography, which relies on non-uniformity, in a way that might at first seem unbalanced, but ultimately aesthetic, beautiful, and lasting.

The famous painting by 19th century Japanese artist Hokusai, the “Great wave off Kanagawa”, has been immortalized in many postcards, poster prints, wallpapers, and so on. If we look at the painting, there is a bold dynamism in the waves. If we apply the “rule of thirds” grid over the painting, you can immediately see where the bold waves sit on the grid.


Painting: Great Wave off Kanagawa, by Hokusai

The Italian Jesuit missionary Guiseppe Castiglione, who would find residence and recognition in Ching Emperor Qianlong’s court in the 18th century, as a painter who married his Western expressions with the Chinese painting style. His paintings are exhibited in museums worldwide. In one of his lesser seen paintings of birds and flowers, you can see again, there is no symmetry, which in turn creates a beautiful expression that values this as art, and not mere craft.

Painting: Still Life (Palace Collection), by Giuseppe Castiglione

When I traveled to the Vatican in Rome sometime ago, I was awe-struck at the magnificent art found in the mesmerizing sacred grounds. These masterpieces reminded us that the greatest of artists saw something in real life and in nature, and then magnified what they saw to present to us something that would allow even mere mortals to see greatness in aesthetics. One such piece is the sculpture of Trajan priest Laocoön and his sons, by Greek sculptors in the 1st century. Look closely at the statue, and see not just its fluid human forms, but the dynamism of the entities within the collective sculpture.

Sculpture: Laocoön and his sons, Vatican Museum

Some of the greatest arts are also found in iconography, which to many, would be artistic expressions, but to those faithful, they are spiritual writings. Again, in this icon of the Theotokos Iverskaya, a Russian Orthodox icon, you can see from an artistic perspective, when you view it through the grid of thirds.

Iconography: Theotokos Iverskaya, Russian Iconographer

These are just some random samples from the truly aesthetic creative and artistic expressions out there, that show how the greatest of artists, sculptors, and even photographers and typographers, have sought to find beauty in fluidity and dynamism, and to present to us things we may not see due to our own myopia.

But the ultimate creative and aesthetic expression has to be found in nature. Have you seen anything uniform in nature? None. Every leaf has a unique pattern that differs from the next. Your fingers have different fingerprints from mine. Every landscape on earth is fluid and visually non-conforming. The musculature on a stallion is strangely fluid and dynamic, and certainly not blocky nor artificially constrained.

The next thing you step out of your abode, look around you, and see things in a different perspective. You may just trail the footsteps of the great artists before you, and find their vision in almost everything out there in a whole new aesthetic perspective.