Showing posts with label the art of looking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the art of looking. Show all posts

December 10, 2015

The Art of Looking

As in looking for something, not looking at something. Big difference...

Powers of observation go a long way.

Every time I'm not at home and I get an emergency phone call from one of two family members who are desperately looking for something important they can't find, I remind them that knowing how to look is the first step to finding what you're looking for. There is definitely an art to it since it's clear that some people have no problem with it while others (including the majority of the population) will have a life long struggle with it.

According to research, the average American wastes approximately 55 minutes a day looking for things.

The average person will waste approximately one year of their life looking for lost possessions. As one online source put it, considering that we only laugh for around 6 minutes a day, that's pretty depressing statistics.

Not immune to this problem but trained at an early age I feel I can safely offer some sage advice on the topic. Since aforementioned one of two family members is likely to read this I figured I'd get it all down now...

No. 1
Take a deep breath in, then breathe out.

No. 2
Realize that whatever you're looking for is not gone forever. No one has come to your house to steal your car keys, wallet, passport, ipad, or sunglasses. They are not lost, they're misplaced, or more likely, they're right in front of your face. You just can't see them for the hurried, frantic frustration you're currently engulfed in.

No. 3
Slow down. Rushing and looking do not go hand in hand. If you're moving too fast you've probably rushed right by what you were looking for like ten times already.

No. 4
Keep in mind that rifling, rummaging and grabbing are all synonyms for burglarizing. If it concerns paperwork, which it often does, you actually have to pick up each and every single paper separately. This is not the time to fan through the pile. This can occasionally require a bit of eye hand coordination like picking up papers with the right hand (if you're a righty) while holding them with the left hand. If the pile is that big, you're going to need a system, trust me.

No. 5
Don't assume. If you have an image of what you're looking for in your head it can actually get in the way of finding it because if we assume, we usually wrongly assume. We think the paper we're looking for has an orange letter head when in reality it has a blue letterhead with orange writing. Or we forget that the black hat actually has a huge colorful logo in front and clearly that's not what we were looking for. Without the assumption of what something already looks like, we're forced to look more closely at every single thing in the pile. How many times do we say, well that's not what I was looking for that's why I couldn't find it. Or we say, how can I find it if I don't know what I'm looking for.

The Art of Looking 

Here I'd sarcastically say, you know, Open your eyes. Maybe I should say instead, Open your mind.

No. 6
Employ only the most loyal family members to help in the search. It will most definitely grow tiresome and it's important to know where your unconditional love is coming from. Of course there are instances when relying on someone else's eyes is literally essential (like in my case), when someone who needs glasses to see far away can't find her glasses.

Well, for me that about sums it up. I suppose there's an art form to everything if we think about it. I also think some of these suggestions could work pretty well for half a dozen other things that plague us on a daily basis; if we consider that breathing, slowing down, appreciating help from others, and positively reassuring ourselves are all good things in themselves.

No doubt there's much more that could be added to this list.

If you have any other interesting insights into The Art of Looking, please send them my way.

July 17, 2014

on looking- part 2

When I was a kid my favorite artist was Vincent Van Gogh. I was enamored by his strong use of complimentary colors and the thickness of his urgent brush strokes. As I got older my tastes changed. Over the years I've had art crushes on lots of different artists. Susan Rothenberg, Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell, Ida Applebroog, and Philip Guston, to name a few. Someone just asked me the other day that artless of all artless questions- who is my favorite artist. I of course said I didn't have one.

Through the years, though, and especially when I teach, Van Gogh comes back again and again- and every time I look at his work I see something different. The last lesson I taught using Van Gogh as inspiration revolved around his pen and ink drawings. I can look at those studies forever. His incredibly efficient eye was able to gather an extraordinary amount of detailed information from something like the leaves of a tree, or a dense brush of foliage beneath the trees, or the individual blades of grass in a huge field. I picture him intently staring down his subjects for hours, relishing in, or perhaps damning, his uncommon powers of observation. It is a great lesson in focus and determination and at times keeps me from being extra lazy in my own work.

Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh

Years ago I read a wonderful book called Daybook. One of a series of memoirs by sculptor Anne Truitt. In it she talks about being near sighted for years as a child before she finally got glasses. She attributes her artwork- her particular visual language and means of observation to this fact of seeing the world slightly out of focus for a small chunk of her life. I was astonished when I read this because I too am near sighted and related very much to Ms. Truitt's story. Although I got glasses to correct my sight as soon as it was noticed, I admit that I voluntarily walk around in a foggy blur most of the time because I don't like to actually wear my glasses. I can understand Ms. Truitt's peculiar way of categorizing visual information in clumps of color and clumps of contrast because that's how I see things too. Needless to say, it was a revelation! but it also made me realize that there are in fact different ways of seeing, and maybe the blue that I see really isn't the same exact blue that you see.

Anne Truitt
Anne Truitt

Some of us could never even find the needle in the haystack let alone be able to focus in on it long enough to create an amazing drawing of it-
so, thanks to Vincent and all those extraordinary artists
for looking.

June 28, 2014

on looking- part 1

photo by Samantha Palmeri

I was just reading, thanks to Max Watman, about becoming better at looking. Although he was referring to something completely different, the act of looking is still the act of looking no matter what you're looking at, or into. It is the act of getting to know something. It's investigatory and starts with a desire to know. It also requires a particular type of person, someone who accepts a position of general not knowing. Someone with an innate need to learn more, to gain a better understanding of things. And here's the most important part: it requires an open mind, one that is ready and willing to be filled.

I'm an investigator, a researcher, a reader, a thinker, a seeker. For the most part I cannot help but question all things all the time. I want to know the whys and hows behind everything. Sometimes I think it all stems from a lack of trust. Trust in rules, in laws, in labels, in business practices, in lawyers, in politicians in doctors... in anything with a boss or a bottom line. Things with ulterior motives and boundaries that are closed off and closed minded. I have my own mind that knows what it wants and what it wants is inevitably TRUTH.

Isn't that what every artist is after? Shouldn't this be what it's all about??
Only there are so many variables and so many mixed up ways of twisting it all around. It is seriously difficult to know what's real. Certainly we've all felt this way at one time or another. Just one full day of watching television could tamper with every idea of truth and reality you've ever had.

My advice is, and my only consolation- go back to that simple act of looking. Be aware. Go back to that innate desire to know.
In my last post I mentioned how "there's something about intently staring at the subject you're drawing that gives you an understanding of it in a way that nothing else can".
All it requires is a little focus, the desire for truth, and a willingness to accept what you don't already know.

photo by Samantha Palmeri