Thoughts on Crop Circles

Admittedly, I am old and crotchety. I have an engineering degree but it is pretty old too. When I started college back in 1956 all freshmen aiming for an engineering degree were required to take a full year of drafting or mechanical drawing. But even earlier than that,  at my junior high school, all boys were required to take a course which was half shop and half mechanical drawing. On top of all this, My father was a professor of industrial arts at Stanford University and I learned mechanical drawing at his knee. I tell you all this to point up the fact that I am a person thoroughly steeped in the tradition of drafting and mechanical drawing. Nowadays that kind of work is done by computer assisted drawing programs (CADs), but like old-timers everywhere, I feel that something intrinsic has been lost in the process.

Having established my credentials (I hope), I have to tell you that when I look at aerial photographs of crop circles it is painfully obvious to me that almost all of the designs can be drawn with the most basic of tools, i.e. a compass, a straight edge, and a protractor of some kind. This is not to say that many of them aren’t beautiful, even glorious to a high degree, but there is nothing that a skilled draftsman of the human variety couldn’t accomplish. There is a good reason for this type of approach. Designs that are produced using those kinds of tools are easily scaled up to much larger dimensions. A compass and a straight edge are nicely replaced by a string stretched between two points and/or pivoted from one end. A protractor is a common enough device but even that can be omitted if one has a sufficient knowledge of geometry. However, today with instruments such as laser pointers, range finders, GPS and cell phones the task has become vastly simplified. 
 
Interestingly, these designs can be scaled down as well as up. I have reproduced a fairly complex design in walnut to create a serving tray. I originally saw the design as an aerial photograph of a crop circle on the internet. The tray may be seen at:
 
 
I have seen several crop circles that employ a grid to scale up the design. In fact, I seem to remember seeing a reproduction of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa done in this manner. Again this is not difficult to do. One simply lays a grid over the image to be scaled up and then lays out a corresponding larger grid in the target field. “Mission Control” then directs an assistant to go to square G-7 and stomp down the lower right hand corner, etc. etc. Very rarely does one see any design element that might be called “organic” and when you do it is usually a small piece of a larger mechanical design. Organic designs are much more difficult to scale up.
 
Now let me take off my engineer’s hard hat and put on my artist’s beret. I retrained myself at mid-life to do fine art and even ended up teaching some aspects of the subject. For the sake of argument I imagine myself as an alien artist hovering above a large field in my flying saucer. The field is planted with a mature crop of some kind. I see the field from above in the third dimension unlike an artist on the ground who must necessarily work while he himslf is located on a two dimensional surface. My “canvas” is before me. I pickup my “brush” and make a bold  stroke — voila! Is there any reason for me to be restricted to the elements of mechanical drawing? Of course not! I am working directly on the original and there is no need for me to transfer from some previously conceived design. Art created in this immediate manner is bound to contain many elements that would be extremely difficult to transfer via a mechanical process and from a two dimensional prospective. In addition, because of this difficulty, it would be much more convincing as to its possible extraterrestrial origin. So why don’t we see any field art of this nature?
 

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