I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore,
while the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me.
This quote comes from the man who wrote Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica aka The Principia in which he laid out the laws of motion and gravity, and formalised physics in a way that would be unchallenged for 300 years. It’s the kind of book that no-one ever reads. Newton didn’t write it to be read; he wrote it to grumpily prove he could. Written in Latin instead of English, it was obviously only meant for the tiny amount of people who could understand both Latin and advanced Mathematics. Not me then. I think it’s a shame that maths doesn’t come as naturally as language, because it is clearly the way to truly understand things. Physicist Eugene Wigner summed it up perfectly:
The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.
-The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences
Again I’ve left writing this blog until late. It’s supposed to be a wake-up thing to get the mind working, but this morning I started painting. Last night I did a lot of prep work for the scientist portraits project; sketches, collecting photographs, painting canvases, etc. This morning I was able to launch right into it. Unfortunately we only had a drop of milk and one teabag, so caffeine depletion quickly tired me out. I was able to get a bit of work done, but couldn’t stay focused on the cross-hatching. Older paintings have the black lines done in marker pen, but this reflects the light unpleasantly. Now I do the black lines in acrylic paint; this looks better but is a lot more labour intensive. I have to get the water/paint ratio just right – too much water and the line is translucent; too much paint and it doesn’t brush smoothly.
The hardest part is the cross-hatching. The repetitive movement, slow advance across the canvas, and uncomfortably hovering arm. I lean back in my chair, ‘argh’ and crack my knuckles at regular intervals. I have eight canvases in various stages of incompletion, including these three of Einstein, Copernicus and Kepler:
Forgive the poor quality of the photo (my camera is useless; I need a digi-SLR), and the paintings are of course not finished. But they look pretty nice in real life. I love the hideously, artless garish colours. Subtlety is not a consideration for me when choosing colours. They just need to be bright and different to their neighbouring colour. The effect will be impressive and overwhelming when there are many of the portraits collected together. It’s the sort of project that could remain ongoing for years, constantly developing, changing and refocusing as my interests and abilities shift. Over time the subject could change to objects, comedians, wrestlers, chefs, hats, poultry, pies, condiments, shoes, cloud types... whatever.