Artistic Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder


My wife tells me I have the eye of an artist. It may even be true; artistic beauty catches the eye of this beholder every day, often in the most mundane circumstances and conditions.

Or at least, what some folks consider mundane. Our friend Will Starr, when we were both writing actively on another site, once found it remarkable that I could write an entire article on a “damned grasshopper”. His offhand comment turned out to be one of those lines I’ll never forget. It made me realize that sometimes I see things others do not see, or at least in a way they do not see them.

Will’s input came to mind today when a striking example of the beauty that surrounds us hit me right between the eyes.

“Look at this,” I told Pam. “I’m going to take it outside and get some pictures.”

She thought that was a great idea. The following pics are the result.

Artistic beauty #1.

Artistic beauty #1.

Artistic beauty #2.

Artistic beauty #2.

Artistic beauty #3.

Artistic beauty #3.

Artistic beauty #4.

Artistic beauty #4.

Artistic beauty #5.

Artistic beauty #5.

The above pictures were presented prior to the explanation, obviously–but for a good reason. We wanted to let you see the art forms all by themselves before putting them into context. What mundane object might contain light reflecting structures of this sort? Only the thorough reader (or the insightful guesser) gets to know.

Part one of the two part reveal is coming right up.

Artistic beauty #6.

Artistic beauty #6.

For several years now, Pam and I’ve been living off grid near the Mexican border in southern Cochise County, Arizona. Our primary food storage appliance is a 19 cubic foot propane refrigerator. The freezer is pretty generously sized, but we try to make runs to the grocery store as seldom as possible, so space (in the freezer) is always at a premium.

We love ice in our drinks, soda pop or water or whatever, but standard ice trays take up a good bit of space. With that in mind, I came up with an alternative way to produce ice. We simply fill a 16 ounce clear plastic cup about 5/8 full with water and set the thing in the freezer to produce a single monster ice cube.

Three of these ice cups add up to a fair number of cubic inches, but each individual cup is pretty adaptable. It can fit into any number of nooks and crannies.

Using this “block ice” for our drinks is simplicity itself.

In my case, the frozen part-cup of ice is set into a foam cup holder as is. Water is then added, and I’m good to go.

Pam uses larger containers for her Coke/Cherry Coke combos. They’re actually protein shake mixer bottles with the stirring wire thingies removed. I fix her drinks for her, using the following procedure:

    1. A frozen ice cup is held under the warm water faucet and rotated rapidly for a minute or so, thawing the outside of the ice block so that it slides free and can be placed in her drink bottle. It fits perfectly in there, too, like the ice and the bottle were made for each other.

    2. Cherry Coke (2/3) and Coke (1/3) are added. She has two of these bottles. If one is not needed immediately, it goes in the fridge; she’ll be snagging it back out of there before long.

Why it took me literal years to really notice, I couldn’t say–but the photos (above) are all of the “ice tornadoes” that form in the cups as the water freezes. To get the photographs, the cups were taken outside in the sunlight, one at a time, and placed atop the right rear corner of our pickup truck’s cargo box. Depending on the angle of the camera, either the Border Fort itself (our house) or the blue sky with fluffy white clouds ended up serving as a backdrop.

The final photo (below) used the blue sky.

One of the three models for this "artistic beauty" post, a clear plastic cup partially filled with ice.

One of the three models for this “artistic beauty” post, a clear plastic cup partially filled with ice.

One error on my part did end up marring the photo session just a bit. The last two pictures show a number of dirty looking water droplets on the outside of the cup. That’s because I’d wet down the outside of the cup in an effort to combat the quick fogging of the plastic when the ice cup was out of the freezer…and today was a “dirt work” day. I’d been working a #2 shovel just before deciding to take ice art pictures and forgot to wash my hands first.


Other than that, though, the photography project was interesting. There really is artistic beauty in the eye of the beholder…at least when said beholder slows down long enough to notice.

4 thoughts on “Artistic Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder

  1. I knew what it was, but I think you have to make your own ice to get it. Most people have ice makers or buy their ice anymore. We used to make ours in the paper milk jugs. We would wash them out good and then fill them up. We never knew what they would look like when we unwrapped them. Sometimes they would have swirls in them and others they would just look white in the center. They were always interesting though.

  2. I’m not surprised you recognized it. Bet some of our readers won’t, though, till they get to the end. And I’m pretty sure you’re right; commercially made ice has never teased my eye the way our home made blocks do.

    The “flared spikes” pattern in some of these photos does seem new to me. That is, I don’t remember that showing up prior to the last couple of weeks. Most likely, however, I just haven’t been paying attention until recently.

  3. I knew what it was, too, although in the first set of photos I thought perhaps it was ice that had built up in the freezer and you were thawing it out. You’re right – they are beautiful!

  4. They definitely are. Some of the ice sculptures done by humans are mighty impressive, but never underestimate Mother Nature.

    I’m not surprised you knew what it was, either…but do find it a touch incredible that I’d been making ice this way for years before noticing the aesthetic effect. 🙂

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