Nature: always in style

In other words, here’s another chapter from Graham Collier's Form, Space & Vision, published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in 1963.

FORM IV:  form in the plant:  the structural unit

The practice of drawing (and all the design activities that spring from drawing), makes first this demand of the eye:  that it should search out objects of interest, and concentrating, fix them in the mind that they may be more completely understood; thus will the imagination become active and the emotions quickened.  Some of the most complex forms readily available to us, on which we can sharpen the failing powers of an inquiring eye, lie all around us in nature….

Nature is a most efficient designer, in whose complex world of form the superfluous and the wasteful have little place.  Nature is very much concerned with the unit of structure—with the basic part that, constantly repeated, makes up the total form.  It is with this unit of structure, with the small elemental part cunningly used in a built-up system to create the whole…. select the smallest basic unit from which the complete object is built and then to use this unit in a new structural system to produce a new seed form…The eye searches to discover the structural unit…. For the mutation or new seed to be convincing, it must appear to be the result of organic-structural growth, rather than an apparent attempt to create an artificial novelty…. the growing, living, purposive organization of parts of form.


The experiments:  seed-head formations of plants probably provide the most complex natural objects for study…examine it closely to determine the smallest unit of structure to which it can be reduced and then extract this part and study it individually.  Make many little drawings of this unit part from many angles until you know it thoroughly… sort out proportions and parts from many different viewing positions, in order to describe them by drawing.

Return to the principal object itself and examine it again.  Notice particularly how the small unit attaches to the head or stem or core of the object, or even to itself.  Notice the regularity of the pattern of attachment, the point of attachment, the angle of attachment, and so on.  When you are fairly confident that you understand how the complete object works, both structurally and organically, make a drawing of the complete seed-head or plant.  Now, with this knowledge of the parts and of the whole, you are asked to use your imaginative ability to design a new plant form…take the small unit of structure and by inventing a new grouping system of the parts, a new organization of structural pattern having its own principles of attachment and directional movement, produce a new total object. This new object will be a variant from the original, the kind of object now yet seen in nature, but which could be produced by some interference with the biological laws governing heredity and growth—in other words, a mutation or new development.
Conclusions:  ‘organic’ is one of a living condition or a systematic, non-accidental organization of parts.  The dandelion and the fir cone are living objects, and their parts consequently are structured in an organic way.  Our perception of these objects as ‘living’ and ‘growing’ is assisted by this organic structural organization.  There are relationships between the parts of an object or the parts of a design which are not organic in the living, growing sense, but depend upon other associational elements such as a common scale, a suggested equal weight, a common color, or something of this kind.


[the next lesson here.]

[More art AIXpressions here.]


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