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  1. #1
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    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    I have been meaning to make this post for some time now - but it's a long endeavor (mainly shrinking all the images for example) and thinking about exactly what I'm trying to ask.

    It is very very difficult for someone who is trying to learn on their own to understand the intangible things about painting. I read as much as I can, and I look - I look til my eyes hurt and my brain can barely comprehend what I see -- but it isn't making a connection. I feel like there is some fundamental truth that I am misunderstanding because of my disjointed self-teachings and gaping holes in what I have learned.

    So, I'm asking the experts. I am beseeching. I need help.

    What I am asking is probably the hardest thing to explain and/or teach. But I am sure that whatever gets explained here I am positive that someone else out there who is learning on their own can use the information, too.

    There is something utterly intangible about /good/ art. It is a sense of reality - even if it is a fantastical subject, that grabs hold of us and suspends our disbelief. I sense this in my very gut - that it is some fundamental almost hyper-natural understanding of color... but I may be wrong. I really need to know whether I am wrong or if anyone can maybe clue me in.

    I have lots of color theory books. I /do/ understand the color wheel. This is something else I'm talking about - some intangible ability I would really like to understand -- so I know where I need to go to begin learning myself. I just need to be pointed in the right direction. I feel like I am floundering.

    Here are some examples of my favorite art. I not only like them because of their subject matter but because of the way they are painted. These are exquisite (to my eye anyway) and I especially like how "tied-in" they look. I cannot explain that special feat any other way. But that is what is becoming so difficult to even try. Tied-in. My sneaking suspicion is color and value - but not a /single/ person has confirmed or denied my queries regarding this, in any post where I've mentioned it, ever -- so I'm beginning to get desperate. Maybe they don't know, either.


    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.


    I don't even know what to ask anymore, I feel so aimless.

    I'm not sure how to go about learning anymore - it's a disconcerting feeling. I simply feel like I am on the cusp of some understanding, but there is a huge unscalable wall between me and a road to learning more. I know that drawing and technique is about practice - and color and painting too. But I am just not sure what I need to be practicing so I am on the RIGHT road. I just need some help
    Last edited by Nerahla; December 16th, 2006 at 09:26 PM.
    “It is enough that we set out to mold the motley stuff of life into some form of our own choosing; when we do, the performance is itself the wage.”
    -Learned Hand

    "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." ~Albert Einstein



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  3. #2
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    i have the feeling that this could evolve to be the best thread in months on these forums...
    i don't have much time right now but what initially came to mind is the subtle and i repeat subtle supernaturality woven into these images. i totallysee what draws you to these images. it's not the colors alone but also the symbols. but then again many of these have like one color that stands out from the rest...
    to be continued...

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    theres alot more to it than just color. but maybe something small to entice you is an effective use of contrast.. both in light and color. try taking some classes to get a more rounded and general education of art. then develop it more in the best way you can. likewise, i'll be back with more later.. - JAG
    it's only after you've lost everything, that you're free to do anything..

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    I think it's more about composition; However, color can be used to aid composition. Warms, cools, saturation and it's value are all very important factors. It's long been my opinion that the best illustrators are those who can make the best compositions; That doesn't just mean placement of objects, however, it also means use of value, saturation, temperature, and texture to accent it.

  6. #5
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    I'd first suggest taking the word "experts" from the title of the thread, because it makes me feel kinda pompous to answer a question directed at such. Others may or may not feel the same. But I do have some things to say, so...

    Color is far from the answer to all your problems. Important, but there are many important things to have a handle on and I personally think color is one of the easiest to fudge. It's actually the only key element which you can eliminate entirely and still have an amazing image. What is making those paintings work is a balanced mix of: solid drawing, solid composition, solid values, developed concept, interesting color, and strong technique. I say color is removable because if you take any image up there and make it a grey scale, it's still going to look damn good. Take anything else from that list away, you're going to have some problems.

    by drawing, I mean functional anatomy, perspective, all the structural nuts and bolts of your image.

    by composition, I mean how well your eyes are directed around the image. Is it interesting to look at? does it cause tension/action/etc. where it should? does it hold your attention where it should?

    by values, I mean are your lightest lights and darkest darks correct? Are your mid-tones correct? Are you paying attention to the subtleties without losing sight of the big picture?

    by concept, I mean is your idea something that people will find interesting? Are you thinking about details to give your image more substance, such as costumes, props, etc.?

    by color, I mean does your color fit your intentions? If you want your piece to feel cool, hot, like spring time, like night time, toxic, foggy, etc., does your color use help achieve this?

    by technique, I mean do you have a mastery of your tools? Are you confident in your stroke? Are your edges well painted?

    I'd also add lighting as a very important element, though it's very tied into composition, color, and concept, so I think it goes along with those.

    Of course, these are all area which we will all be working to further improve ourselves from now till forever. In my opinion, these are the building blocks and they all have to be structurally sound. Improving your painting means examining your abilities in all these areas and practicing those which are weakest. Which is what I'm off to do right now
    "Every little step considered one at a time is not terribly daunting" - Ethan Coen

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  7. #6
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    Thank you guys so much for such insightful thoughts already!

    I can take the experts out if you want, but I was hoping not only to see such experts post (and you certainly are one) but also to catch the notice of people like me, who really desperately want to learn, but struggle with which path to take.

    You guys really nailed it. My husband and I had a long conversation about it over dinner tonight. And it dawned on me, as he is familiar with all these images as well (I proudly hang a signed and numbered limited edition "The Avatar" by Michael Whelan in my home ) -- it dawned on me that it was a perfect marriage of all these concepts.

    Do you know how /good/ it felt to come home and read just what I was thinking? It made me feel in a very small way that at least I'm thinking the right things. I have so. far. to. go. I don't mind that. I do NOT expect to be this caliber - probably not ever. But I am just one of those people that sometimes need direction. My mind can overtake me so harshly - and confuse myself and befuddle myself with all my goals... sometimes its hard to see the forest for the trees.

    This will sound extremely elementary, but even after 1 year of learning I am still very very much a novice in every way. I see myself as someone who is learning the words of a new language - but is unable to use them in any contextual meaning

    So my next question is - to someone like myself, who isn't capable of going to art school, or doing night classes, or really much outside the home due to personal responsibilites -- how should I push forward? I have a will to learn. It's rather intense. I will do whatever is necessary - but I just need a tip in the right direction.

    It was a really great feeling - and now that I think about it, it kinda embarasses me that I only just realized it tonight -- that is really is this sort of magical marriage of composition, value, color and subject.

    It occured to me, after I wrote the post, that the /weight/ of the images - and by that I mean the fact that they seem to be utterly realistic even in their fantasy, is something that happens with correct values - because absolutely you're right about turning these greyscale and them remaining beautiful and wonderful images.

    I'm gonna ask another dumb sounding question. How does one 'practice' composition? Or Value? I've never quite figured that one out on my own... Can you do it stand alone?

    Sometimes, when my mood is light, I feel absolutely blissful at the prospect of this fantastic and wonderful journey I'm on learning about becoming an artist. Nothing has made me so fulfilled.
    “It is enough that we set out to mold the motley stuff of life into some form of our own choosing; when we do, the performance is itself the wage.”
    -Learned Hand

    "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." ~Albert Einstein


  8. #7
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    I would just like to add quickly a huge thank you to DaveP -- as I've read and re-read what you said about 5x already tonight and it's just... golden. Thank you so much.
    “It is enough that we set out to mold the motley stuff of life into some form of our own choosing; when we do, the performance is itself the wage.”
    -Learned Hand

    "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." ~Albert Einstein


  9. #8
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    Wow, sorry for slightly offtopic question, but can some one give me the name and artist of these artworks?

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rayk
    Wow, sorry for slightly offtopic question, but can some one give me the name and artist of these artworks?
    Michael Whelan.

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    ^ Thanks. I like those pieces too, especially the towering beach house thing. That's possibly my favorite out of the whole lot.

    EDIT: I'm far from an expert but this is an interesting discussion and I'd like to add my 5cents.

    I believe that any and every piece of art is a jigsaw puzzle, one that must be carefully constructed with pieces selected from an infinite cache of pieces.
    As a simple example to better explain myself, we take a cube, we can paint this cube black, or blue, yellow or red. We can put this cube on top of a cylinder, a rectangle or a pyramid ,and paint it black, or blue, yellow or red.
    Imagine something simple like this times infinity! That is what art is about! (to myself.) The choosing of these puzzle pieces from an inexhaustible source and the placing of them in a universally correct fashion to creature something that is pleasing to our eyes.
    Last edited by HunterKiller_; December 17th, 2006 at 01:10 AM.

  12. #11
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    I'm not really much of an experet but, I think I would mostly parrot what Dave said and not do as good a job of it. One thing I'll add though is that those pics all have really great design. Think of things as big shapes or as linear elements first and then consider what the subject is. If the design is good then the subject could be changed around to be anything really ( as far as the basic pleasing aesthetic works. ) You see this all the time.. designers will work on something as silhouette at first, they just look for interesting shapes, those shapes could be anything its not much concern until later.. and then as they refine the idea they find some excuse to make things functional.

    Your question though isn't one that isn't easily answered. The best way to answer it really is to go through and try to answer these questions through your own experiences of making art. So just do whatever you can get your self into. I guess what I'm trying to say is, the question you're asking is basically "how do you make art?" and well if you go looking into that question you will find out a lot of things.

    This thread here has a good idea of most everything and gives me a kick in the ass everytime I read it : Back to the Basics: An FAQ regarding the foundations of creating art
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    Do you know anything about playing an instrument? I play guitar. For a very long time I could press all the same notes but I never got the same sound as the band. One day, I closed the book and I closed my eyes. I started playing, first a scale or two and then some funky melodies using that scale, and then I went all out on the fretboard. I opened my eyes and played the song without the music. It was that day that I found the missing piece. You've got to learn how to do it, and then you have to disconnect yourself from everything you learned and simply let your creative mind overtake your body. Your hands will still know how to do everything, they are what you've been training, NOT your language-centered brain. Meanwhile, your 'other' brain has also been learning. At this point, you will create based on instinct and minor left-brained direction. The logical side of your mind is very methodical and order-oriented. It is good for tasks like remembering to clean brushes, take breaks, work on certain sections in a certain order, and other similar tasks. Your intuitive brain ("right-brain") is difficult to describe because it doesn't really have a language that is fully comprehensible. It just "knows" and when you can tap into that it'll fill in all those gaps between the "notes."

    I hope this helps, it is a difficult subject to explain since most of the real knowledge is locked into a part of the mind that can only express itself in ways that are not easily related to a keyboard. Difficulty or no, it is a subject I do enjoy discussing none-the-less.

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    ^ Good post. I believe the ideas you've presented are excellent.

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    i'd even go as far as to say that wheelan wasn't really concerned about or colors all that much. he just did what felt right. dave kinda stated the imagemaking 101 but i feel that those examples unlike many other images can't be reduced to that. in my book the aspect of technique doesn't matter at all in these examples. they dont suck technically but theres nothing to lose sleep over in them. technically.
    so don't get to worked up over values or specifics like that in your struggle to understand what happens to you when seeining these. rather examine the symbolism and what elevates them from pure realism. but don't try to break them down to a simple formula. they are talking to you in tongues of the unconscious mind and to achieve that the artist has to bypass your consciousness to a certain extend. just like pseudomantia said.
    Last edited by Dan.v.D.; December 17th, 2006 at 06:52 AM.

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    wow - you guys /really/ get it - I mean, really get what I'm asking - that makes me feel /really/ good. Like I'm not insane or stupid or weird.

    What pseudo said really made sense to me. I have a huge part of me that is instinctual, the "follow my gut" response. It actually rules the majority of my decision making - and this sometimes gets me in trouble for having a really obnoxious mouth!! Or sometimes an intolerant nature - but it also fuels my intense desire to learn all the 'technical' parts of creating art to get to the point where I can close my eyes and just create.

    to that end - the left part of my brain is still clamoring for technique.

    Seriously though - how would you practice composition?? Is it really just trial and error?

    I have learned one thing though, I need to think and plan a LOT more than I've done in the past year. I am not ready to close my eyes yet

    edit: I clicked through to that link - never saw that thread before, will check it out now thanks a lot!
    “It is enough that we set out to mold the motley stuff of life into some form of our own choosing; when we do, the performance is itself the wage.”
    -Learned Hand

    "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." ~Albert Einstein


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    Cave House Studios - creative animation and video
    What the Sketchbook

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    There are some small PDFs with composition tips here. You might find them useful.
    http://www.refreshingcontent.com/library.html

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    thank you!! after xmas shopping today I will check them out, bookmarked!
    “It is enough that we set out to mold the motley stuff of life into some form of our own choosing; when we do, the performance is itself the wage.”
    -Learned Hand

    "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." ~Albert Einstein


  20. #19
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    Farvus, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    I read those PDFs (and saved them to my HD) and you know what?

    Some of the stuff in there I had NEVER heard before. Never read anywhere, never seen in any post, or heard anyone mention (even my drawing 101 teacher I had Spring semester -- the only class I've taken).

    I was so blissfully happy reading all this stuff I need to know. There was so much there that answered SO many questions. Thank you so much.

    There is /so/ much to think about and plan when getting ready to paint, I don't know how anyone does it! My brain wants to explode
    “It is enough that we set out to mold the motley stuff of life into some form of our own choosing; when we do, the performance is itself the wage.”
    -Learned Hand

    "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." ~Albert Einstein


  21. #20
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    First, thanks for sharing those beutiful images and for sparking an interesting discussion... I can't add much to DaveP's excellent summary on the fundamentals, and I apologize for possibly boiling this down a little too simply... but it sounds like you're thinking about it too much. And I mean something very particular when I say this.

    At some level all great art is about balance between many many things... thought, logic, composition, color, technique, spirit, intuition, emotion, symbol, and on and on. The balance is different for every artist and it changes throughout their development as well. Thinking is only one aspect out of many that goes into art.

    It sounds like you've been doing a lot of thinking about art and talking about art, and now you are struggling with getting all those thoughts and ideas into your practice. Obviously I'm nowhere near the final authority, but I have had this same discussion at times with my wife. I firmly believe that thinking and learning and knowledge are wonderful things for your art... but that if you want to see improvement in what you MAKE, at some point you need to start making stuff. My wife gets stuck thinking that since she's an artist, everything she makes has to be artistic... and becomes afraid to create at all. I think this is limiting to artistic growth. Create garbage. Create a LOT of garbage. Make mistakes and learn from them. Don't be afraid to throw your work away.

    How can you (or anyone!) know the difference between garbage and gold in your own work if you haven't created both to compare? Take composition as an example. There are some "rules" to it, but it's also one of those intangibles that goes far beyond formula. Start by studying Loomis or another master. But at some point when you've studied enough, start making sketches... lots of them. Frame the same scene (or still life or whatever) 10 different ways, or 100 different ways, or whatever it takes. Don't worry if 90% is crap, just learn. Throw away what doesn't work. And remember, at this point you are comparing YOURSELF to YOURSELF. There is NO right and wrong, just learning. Don't compare yourself to the masters at this point... do that later if at all.

    Ok, got wound up there... I hope the basic point came through. Don't be afraid to make stuff because you're unsure of all those "how-tos". We are all unsure. Just do. Learning how-to comes with the doing.

    Just 2 cents from a fellow traveller on this path.
    Best wishes!
    "Change is a virtue my friend... if you want to escape, all you have to do is make up your mind."
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  22. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavePalumbo
    I'd first suggest. . .
    Wow, so much good info! :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by Runecaster
    So my next question is - to someone like myself, who isn't capable of going to art school, or doing night classes, or really much outside the home due to personal responsibilities -- how should I push forward? I have a will to learn. It's rather intense. I will do whatever is necessary - but I just need a tip in the right direction.
    Try a one-hour painting or drawing from observation each day. I’ve been doing this in my sketchbook for about a hundred days now, and have improved much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Runecaster
    I'm gonna ask another dumb sounding question. How does one 'practice' composition? Or Value? I've never quite figured that one out on my own... Can you do it stand alone?
    Hmmm. . . I don’t have specific exercises to address these things in my Concept Art 101 thread just yet, but I’ll work on adding them. The answer to your last question is “yes”.

    Almost forgot about this one: here’s an exercise on composition for you
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.

  23. #22
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    runecaster,

    firstly, let me say: you are aiming really high by looking at michael whelan.
    i study his stuff like crazy and still cant come close.

    i get what you are asking.
    really, the simplest thing to do is to dissect exactly what it is about a piece that you like.
    once you know WHAT it is, then you need to consciously implement those ideas into your piece.
    that doesnt mean copy whelan, it just means try similar solutions.

    if you feel it is the "color" in these cases, than lets examine that.
    we'll look at a whelan piece, and see how we can take those ideas and better one of your own.
    (though, "better" is subjective...especially considering my crappy paintover)

    Experts and Professionals: a query from a nobody.

    keep doing this, and eventually whelan's vocabulary will become your vocabulary.
    add this to a variety of other influences, and you will create a dialect distinctly your own.

    the other thing i see predominant in all these examples is RESTRAINT.
    most of the images are keyed to one particular color.
    but the highest saturation of that color, and the most intense values are all focused on a single area.
    always show restraint while you paint. keep in mind everything you paint serves a purpose...
    and that purpose is to make the FOCUS look better.

    hope this helps,
    good luck!
    - Dan Dos Santos
    www.dandossantos.com

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    Thanks to everyone for the wealth of tip's shared here.

    Dan, where do you find the time?!?

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    First I'd just like to say that :
    My wife gets stuck thinking that since she's an artist, everything she makes has to be artistic... and becomes afraid to create at all.
    has extremely resonated! I really /really/ know how that feels. It's a mood thing though, sometimes I feel really creative and fearless and just go with stuff -- usually in those moments the best stuff I've done to day has come to pass.

    Let me go on to say that I was realllllllly embarassed that you thought that I was trying to paint like Michael Whelan! :blush: I /admire/ him extremely and showed his images because of his ability and skill in making fantastic subjects so grounded in reality with his techniques. Before this thread, I didn't realize at all HOW he did it - but now I have come to understand that it is his keen skill with all the fundamentals.... it's like building a fire. He's got all the right alchemy going and his creativity is the spark.

    You guys are so right - why do we sometimes think ourselves to death? I find it hard to pick up the tablet pen at all some days, from this fear of being just horrible and not knowing what to do to get better. Which is just silly because putting pen to tablet is precisely what will make me better!

    Though to be honest I've been so bombarded with excellent information I'm a little on overload! But it's the best kind. There is so so much to learn. I've said it a hundred times but I feel it's true. It's daunting - but exciting.

    Two totally random comments: Seedling, I'm in a beta of one of your games - I hope that doesn't break the NDA haha, but it's /awesome/ and DSIllustration, I lurk at Irene Gallo's blog so I'd like to say congrats on the wee little one

    I just can't express how much you all have helped me (and I hope others who are maybe lurking and feeling the same way as me) with all the most excellent advice and tutelage. I just want you to know that you made a difference

    Emerson said it best:

    "To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch... to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!"

    It /really/ helps. Thank you so much.
    “It is enough that we set out to mold the motley stuff of life into some form of our own choosing; when we do, the performance is itself the wage.”
    -Learned Hand

    "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." ~Albert Einstein


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