Every Rock Tells a Story

(above) “Scarred Rock,” unretouched digital photo ©2008 Liz Hager; (below) “Wave Action,” Digital illustration ©2008 Liz Hager  

The excerpt below from Leonardo’s journals gave me pause recently. Although I am obsessively drawn to the patterns and textures on display in the natural world (and have several hundred photos to prove it),  to tell you the truth, I never thought about rock patterns, in the way Leonardo describes, as a means to a wholly different end. Greatly intrigued, I decided to see whether his suggestion had withstood the test of time.  I selected a photo of mine (top), a close up of a boulder, which had perhaps broken off from a section of ancient sedimentary cleving action, for its Cy Twombly-esque pattern. I squinted at it and tried to remain open minded. Within a couple of minutes, I thought I saw water. A little square of an expansive body of water, perhaps a lake or ocean. I started to manipulate the photo.  After an hour and without rotation of the original photo, I had waves lapping at a sliver of beach. Not great art maybe, but I think it proves the point quite well. 

I will not refrain from setting among these precepts a new device for consideration which, although it may appear trivial and almost ludicrous, is nevertheless of great utility in arousing the mind to various inventions. And this is, that if you look at any walls spotted with various stains, or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expression of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well-conceived forms. With such walls and blends of different stones it comes about as it does with the sound of bells, in whose clanging you may discover every name and word you can imagine. 

—Leonardo da Vinci—from Irma Richter, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci

One Response to “Every Rock Tells a Story”

  1. Liz, The second rock does have a lot of resemblance of the ocean and even the sand. ox

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