This time I wanted to talk about ‘Awe’. I often talk about my work capturing a sense of awe and this is something I’ve been exploring in my new series of work. Firstly, what is awe? And what does it mean to be inspired by it?

The Cambridge dictionary states that awe is ‘a feeling of great respect, usually mixed with fear or surprise’. For something to be awe inspiring ‘it causes you to admire or respect it a lot’.

Awe is an emotion (not a very well studied one). In Awe: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion, neuropsychologist Paul Pearsall defines awe as an “overwhelming and bewildering sense of connection with a startling universe that is usually far beyond the narrow band of our consciousness.” 

I’ve experienced awe stricken moments many times in my life, and for me its always as a result of something beautiful- mesmerising lights, saturated colours and most of all, the natural world. As a young child we experience these moments frequently; but as we get older this becomes less and less.

I’ve always loved nature, and only in the last few years, especially when I moved onto my narrowboat; that I really started to appreciate it again and experience these moments almost daily. Awe has a big impact on our emotional wellbeing. Before starting my research I didn’t realise the scope of this. So now I’m going to share some ways in which it affects us.

One of the most important effects awe has on us is that it anchors us in the moment. It allows us to appreciate the present and nothing else- this is something I’ve always aimed to replicate in my work. When we are present in the moment, time is expanded. It’s in these moments that we also appreciate life more.

Creativity, is something which I cherish deeply and another thing that is increased in these moments. My paintings are a mixture of collaged images of awe inspiring landscapes and my dreams and memories of landscapes which have made me feel a certain way. These landscapes make us feel connected to the Earth and nature. Although there is a sense of vastness, which can make us feel small, it’s because we are a part of something much bigger. 

In general, experiencing awe can have an impact on your mood. Some people are actually more capable of experiencing awe. I think as a visual person with a love of nature I’ve always found it relatively easy. Although since experimenting with hallucinogenics as an adult it has greatly opened up my capacity for these experiences. 

Awe can change our opinions and perceptions of the world, it has a transformative element which can be very powerful. I’ve always known this but before starting my research I didn’t quite know the scope of this. 

There was something I’ve been trying to capture in my work for a long time and now I finally know exactly what it is. It’s a brilliant emotion which has the ability to make you feel almost insignificant but encouraged that there is so much more out there to appreciate and discover.