In the summer of 2002 I worked a few blocks from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I would often eat lunch there and it wasn’t long before I discovered the one work of art that has lived with me ever since.

Crowd Scene by Sidney Goodman is a realistic panorama that barely reveals the back of a group of people looking at something. The subjects are juxtaposed against an evening sky, basking in the warm glow of  a low hanging sun. The scene is cropped in a way that makes the viewer feel as if they are looking up, while  subtle hints of retro clothing and classic cars transport you to a time long passed.

What are they looking at? Where are they? Who are they? Wait, what on earth are they looking at?

It was hypnotic: first the feeling and then the questions, spinning out of control in my mind.

Goodman painted a mesmerizing atmosphere rather than a mere landscape. It was as though he’d started a sentence that I couldn’t help but to jump in to finish. Like Alice being thrown down a rabbit hole, I was delightfully lost inside of the Crowd.

I often think of this experience and the mood that Goodman created in that painting when I am designing. Setting a mood so that users can fill in the blanks is of paramount importance. Sometimes we are designing for content and other times we are designing for the content yet to be created. Wherever possible, I strive to make that place people go to for the journeys still to be discovered. A place like Goodman’s Crowd Scene.

Crowd Scene was rotated into storage years ago, much like some of my favorite web experiences. I check the museum on trips back to Virginia, but the painting remains tucked away somewhere. According to the VMFA website, the Lewis Gallery of Realist Art is scheduled to open March 2, 2013 with work from Sidney Goodman. My fingers are crossed that Crowd Scene will be housed in this gallery.