Repetition and Variation

Repetition and variation. The combination of those two actions is the key to a full life. Repetition and variation working together is also the key to a great work of art.

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“Birches” by T. Cook

That was the most profound bit of information I took from high school. I learned a lot in school, I am not saying that I didn’t learn other important aspects about life and learning and art, because I did. But I learned about the significance of repetition and variation from my most favorite art teacher ever, Mr. George Benedict. While recognized in music and poetry for eons, it could be argued that Buddhists showcased repetition and variation in their mandalas as early as the ninth century (Lamp, 2018), or perhaps it was the Italian Renaissance painters who were the first to utilize repetition and variation to create their masterpieces (Williams, 2016), but it was Mr. Benedict who brought meaning to those words to me and hundreds of his students in central New York.

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George Benedict with oil pastel portrait

Artists often use repeated patterns to create interesting designs and for a variety of effects.  Pattern and other repetitions can work to form a unified composition and provide stability in a piece of art.  Variation adds interest to the work, with size, color or with the introduction of new images or techniques. Remembering to include repetition and variation is a sound motto to maintain in a composition as well as in life, since

repetition helps creates unity and order, while variation helps create interest.

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oil painting by George Benedict

I still remember the dark classroom from the early 1980’s, illuminated with spotlights around the room, the smell of oil paints and turpentine, and many miscellaneous props, animal skulls, photographs and mirrors to prompt creativity. The room was not comfortable for everyone, but it was my favorite classroom, and in that room I was able to be a painter. Many other students benefited from Mr. Benedict’s five decades of enthusiasm and direction in his classroom; and after high school many of his students, like me, let their creativity direct their futures (Tashkovski, 2014).

Even after I had graduated and he had retired, I would go for long walks with him, go out to eat, and attend figure drawing classes in his basement, yet always he was “Mister” Benedict, my high school teacher who encouraged me and challenged me and believed in me. His direction included using dramatic shadows, thick and thin lines, play on color – repeating and then slightly or dramatically altering the brush stroke or pencil line. And in life, our routines are the repetitions we maintain for order and stability, while spontaneity, dramatics and risk taking keep our lives exciting with variation.

If not for Mr. Benedict, would I have gone on to study art? Probably, because I have always loved to art and my family was very supportive of my creative and artistic endeavors. But what about now, as I am working to get my teaching license and master’s in art education? I think Mr. Benedict, who passed in 2010, would be delighted to know that repetition and variation are still influencing my life and art.

 

References

Lamp, L. (2018.) Design in Art: Repetition, Pattern and Rhythm. Retrieved from https://www.sophia.org/tutorials/design-in-art-repetition-pattern-and-rhythm

Tashkovski, K. (2014.) Go To Your Happy Place, Ms. Tash. Retrieved from https://karentash.com

Williams, R. (2016). Repetition, Variation, and the Idea of Art in Renaissance Italy. Retrieved from: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6075×227

Being Creative in the Kitchen

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It’s apple season and I read an article in the September/October 2018 issue of The Good Life, Central New York Magazine about apple fritters. “We’ll fry if we want to,” are the opening words to MJ Kravec’s story  – with a recipe for homemade fritters. The apple fritters looked so scrumptious, I decided it would be a great day to get creative in the kitchen.

I heated the cast iron skillet, collected the ingredients, peeled a couple of apples….

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Apple Fritter recipe:                                                                                                                         ingredients

  • 2 New York State apples, diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • shortening or oil for frying
  • 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

directions

Heat oil in cast iron skillet.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon; add egg and 1/3 cup milk, then stir in apples.

Drop batter by ice cream scoop sized spoonful into hot oil. Fry until brown, approximately 5 minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking time. Drain on paper towels.

Make glaze while fritters are cooling by mixing powdered sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk. Drizzle over fritters and enjoy!

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Yummy, perfectly sized apple fritters. What could be better on a breezy autumn day?