Awe makes us small... in a good way. The Oxford Dictionary describes it as being "filled with reverential fear, wonder, or respect," and that, I guess puts us in our proper place. Suddenly, rather than being the center of our universe, we are insignificant and small. As anyone who has slept under the stars, held a newborn, climbed a mountain, or walked beneath towering pines can attest, awe is a powerful feeling. A somewhat less obvious consequence of this emotion is how it connects us to those who share the same experience. I guess when one is the center of one's world, wrapped up in everyday life we tend to see everyone else as being on the periphery and of lesser importance, but when we too are made tiny we recognize the people around us as being more like us, equally vulnerable and small, suddenly we're a team. A tribe. A community.
Awe is a bridge creating connections between us. I realize that when I'm painting, I'm building a bridge from my heart to yours as the viewer. More than once, when someone has bought a painting of mine they’ve said it resonates with them on some deeper level. They feel connected to it, and that connects us as well.
Someone asked me recently what draws me to paint a particular scene, and I realize it's often that sense of awe that stops me in my tracks. A scene along the river at sunset. A view across a misty field. A view that hits a spot in my heart, making me feel both small and connected. Usually it is scenes of Mother Nature untouched by human involvement which touch me most deeply but sometimes there's a humble human interplay that magnifies my awe. Like a lighthouse standing alone on the edge of the vast ocean. Or a cabin being swallowed by the surrounding forest. It's from this place I am drawn to paint. It calls on me to share my connection to, reverence with, and gratitude for the world that surrounds us.
If you have a scene that inspires you with awe, I'd love for you to share it with me. Who knows, it could become my next painting! And if you're interested in a fantastic podcast on the topic of awe, check out this Hidden Brain podcast: https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/happiness-2-0-the-reset-button/