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When art and science don’t meet

By Paul Knowles (First published in Metroland Community Newspapers)

Don’t you just love it when your brain comes together? According to the omniscient internet, the left side of our brains controls things like science, while the right side does stuff like art. A week or so ago, it all came together for me. I took on a project that challenged both sides of my brain – and in the end, they both failed, miserably and equally. (Main photo: the Wheel at Steel Pier, Atlantic City; second photo, a non-artist's artist's conception)


I couldn’t be more proud.

This all happened because the nice people at Discover the World invited a few travel writers to an event sponsored by Atlantic City.

The invitation said that we were going to have some finger food and a beverage (that’s pretty standard), hear a presentation about Atlantic City (also standard, although I did learn some good stuff about this resurgent destination), and then have an art lesson. That’s not standard stuff, not at all.

It went as advertised. The latter two thirds of the evening found us aproned, in front of easels and palettes. They had a sample painting already completed – the subject, not surprisingly, was the Atlantic City boardwalk, at night, with a big, bright moon shining above.

And they had prepared a six-step plan for each of us, showing us how to begin our painting, and how to proceed. Plus, there were three instructors in the room, ready to help, advise, and keep their perfectly valid criticisms to themselves.

Let me be perfectly clear – I have always assumed I am a terrible visual artist. Any creativity I can lay claim to has to do with words, not pictures. But by the end of the night… I knew I had been right, all along. The visual element of the right side of my brain apparently shut down at birth.

What I hadn’t realized was the weakness on the left side. Let me explain – we did the background to our paintings, and they were quite pleasing, because we all simply got to blend assorted colours into a rather abstract night sky. Even my moon was okay (with help from one of the instructors, who came around with a round template so we didn’t end up with pear-shaped moons).

But a main feature in the painting was to the “The Wheel at Steel Pier”, a giant ferris wheel. Came the template again, to get the circle right, and then I rushed on, painting the gondolas. I had just finished when it was pointed out to all of us that those at the top of the wheel would hang inside the wheel, while those at the bottom would obviously hang below it. That’s just physics.

That’s not what I had done. In my wheel, half of the riders would now be hanging upside down from the ceiling of fixed cars – not the intention of the designers of this leisurely attraction.

In general, the wheel also looked like it had been drawn by a four year old on a bad day. Fail.

There were other bits to be added along the boardwalk, but I realized my career as an artist was in tatters. So I improvised. Everyone else in the room carried on creating Atlantic City, but I decided, in the spirit of the night, to have Toronto’s CN Tower rising in front of my moon. For some reason, no one else thought of that.

And that, my friends, came from the part of my brain that no one ever wants to deal with.