Leading the Witness.
By Steven Kenny
I love hiking. It’s thrilling to set out into an unfamiliar landscape. Ideally, trails are designed and built to intentionally lead us through a wide variety of experiences.
“The routing of the trail should stimulate the user. Variety is critical—sameness and predictability should be avoided. Around every bend, at the end of every straightaway, over the crest of every hill, through the bottomlands of every valley a new experience should be found.”(https://www.nps.gov/noco/learn/management/upload/NCT-Trail-Handbook-Chapter-1.pdf).
There are gentle walks and rigorous climbs; dense woods and vast overlooks; grass, stone, or sand underfoot; streams to cross, etc. Hikes can be meditative, extremely challenging, or a combination of both. In either case, each step forward yields a new discovery. Getting lost is rarely a possibility but that fear always lurks somewhere in the back of the mind, adding to the sense of adventure.
Using that analogy, artists are trail blazers. We decide what sort of artistic environment we will be creating and what the experience of exploring that environment should be.
To me, the painter’s job is to take the viewer by the hand, so to speak, and lead them on a visual path through the work of art. As guides, painters need to avoid unintentionally boring or frustrating the viewer thereby creating a reluctance to continue looking.