October 2018: Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
This book is an oldie but a goodie, and by 'goodie' I mean excellent and life-changing. It was actually years ago when I first read this book, and it has remained one of my favorites ever since. You know how when you think back over the books you've read - the most memorable and influential books in your life always stand out? For me, this book is one of those.
It tells the story of Mowat being dropped off in the middle of the Arctic to study wolves. It is an adventure story really, but more importantly a revelation narrative that details what happens when you open your eyes and your mind.
And THAT is why I recommend this book to artists.
One of the biggest challenges that artists encounter is truly seeing - this is especially challenging for new artists. What we perceive is so influenced by other factors that usually have no bearing on the subject at which we are looking. Yet not only do these influences change how we see things, they also change how we represent them.
These perceptual influences actually function in the mind of an artist as a filter. Our filtered perception is completely unique to each and every one of us. However, it can be a great inhibitor if you are unaware of it - or if you haven't learned to question or critically analyse what you are looking at. (What color is that shadow really? Is it grey? Or is it actually blue?) Once you learn to see beyond your filter, to become aware of it, and to use it to enhance your work you will not only be more keenly aware of the world around you, but you will have begun to discover your own artistic voice.
What does all of this have to do with wolves? If you consider one of the older archetypal nemeses in stories, fairy tales, and fables - it's wolves. Many people now acknowledge that wolves have been very misunderstood. Farley Mowat knew better, but still spent some real time untangling this very ingrained perception of them before he really saw and began to understand them.
This book is about what you see when you really stop and look. It is about taking the time to observe. It is about exploring regions beyond your comfort zone. It's also about wolves.