What is bokeh art?

What is bokeh art?

Bokeh: The Art of Softness and Surrender

What is bokeh? Why do I paint it? And what does it mean 'to be bokeh-ful'?

Have you ever gazed at a photograph where the background is a beautiful blur of light and color, while the foreground subject remains crisp and clear? That magical effect is called bokeh, a term derived from the Japanese word "boke," which translates to "blur" or "haze." In photography, bokeh refers to the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas in an image, created by the lens' aperture shape and settings.

Photography was my entry point to the art career I have now. 'Bokeh' came into my lexicon in 2010, with many of the early Penny Drops' imagery featuring bokeh-ful backgrounds. In Feb 2012, I posted a 'this or that' type post on Facebook where one option was bokeh - only one person responded in the affirmative for the bokeh image. At the time, my preference was for the bokeh option, but I (foolishly?) let the majority sway me away from it!

(As an aside: I wonder how different my path would have been if I'd nudged the bokeh route a little more then, if I'd tuned into my preferences more acutely - instead of waiting until 2022 to go all in on bokeh...)

Bokeh as a metaphor

In my hands, bokeh is more than just a photographic technique these days; I treat it as a metaphor for moments of softness, stillness, and surrender in rich oil paintings. I use the bokeh effect to convey a sense of tranquility and beauty, inviting you to pause and reflect on the gentle, bigger picture of life - without getting distracted by the nitty-gritty details.

Bokeh represents softening your focus; letting go of the pursuit of sharpness and clarity. It symbolises surrendering to beauty and embracing the blurred edges of our experiences. As a photographer I use bokeh to enhance the visual impact of a photo, and as an artist I believe we can invite bokeh into our lives as a reminder to soften the harsh edges of reality, while finding beauty in the subtle and the imperfect.

Painting bokeh

In my oil paintings, bokeh showcases light in both a literal and metaphorical sense. It represents the way light shines through even in our darkest moments, illuminating the path forward. Bokeh reminds us to seek out and cherish the light in our lives, no matter how dark it may feel around us.

But bokeh is not just about light; it's also about beauty. It's about recognizing and appreciating the beauty in the ordinary, in the everyday moments that often pass us by unnoticed. Bokeh encourages us to slow down, to pay attention, to be gentle and compassionate - enabling us to find beauty even in unexpected places.

A bokeh-ful way of life

Bokeh reminds us to be soft in a world that often demands hardness and hustle. It encourages us to surrender to the flow of life, to embrace the beauty of blurring away the 'niggly little things', to (un)focus on the bigger picture, and to find stillness in the chaos. Bokeh teaches us that sometimes, the most beautiful moments are the ones that are slightly out of focus, where the edges are blurred, and the details are hazy - like the best rose-tinted memories.

The Bokeh Barometer

How bokeh-ful is your life?

I've collated a set of simple yes/no questions to help you gauge your levels of softness, beauty and light - qualities that enhance and enrich your life experience. Download my free Bokeh Barometer to find out where you are on the scale and get suggestions to increase the bokeh-fulness of your days.

Does that de-mystify bokeh a little more for you? If you have any more questions, please ask away in the comments and I'll get back to you asap 😀

x Mel

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