Saturday, January 28, 2006

On Seeing


Ever have those running conversations in your mind while you're in the shower that you hope to capture on paper before the thoughts swirl down the drain with the water?

I got to thinking about Danny's recent article on drawing vs.photography blended with pen versus pencil, and so got to wondering about SEEING. Bear with me here .. I"d love to have your thoughts ... It's a bit long ..

Before I began sketching, and many times even now, the question I always ask an artist is "What do YOU SEE that I don't?"It ALWAYS amazes me to watch an artist sketch or paint Â… I'll be looking at the scene before both of us and the artist I am watching will draw a line, add a color, that would make me drop my jaw in wonder. "Where did THAT come from," I'll think, "I don't SEE that and I'm looking at the same item. "Where did the blue come from that you added to the gray?" -- for again, I didn't see a lick of blue in front of my eyes. I am left marveling at this process and wishing that I could be a glint in the artist's eye so I too could SEE what they were seeing!

I remember a scientific debate a number of years ago about the sub-sub-atomic atoms that when viewed CHANGED as they were being viewed; in other words, the viewer was changing the scene before him/her as s/he were viewing it. (I wish I could remember the name of this phenomenon.) I remember wondering at the time, and now too, if there is really an objective reality before us that we each see the same or differently. And while I'm not prepared to argue this existential question, I think I've come to a few ideas.

I realize that since I began sketching, I am seeing things differently than I had before. Am I seeing things better? I'm not sure -- but I'm seeing manmanyany more details than previously. Were these details there before I saw them? Does the tree falling in the woods make a noise even though no one hears it? Am I now better able to DISCERN what I'm viewing?

I remember trying to teach my students how to identify various plants. I'd hold a sprig of leaves before them and ask them to articulate what they were seeing. They'd look at the clump of leaves and say, "Ummmmm, they're green." I'd sigh in frustration expecting them to SEE that the leaves were opposite or alternate, that the leaves had ridges along their margins, that the bud scales were overlapping... Were these things in front of the students' eyes? They were there before my own. Did it mean they weren't seeing the same clump of leaves I was seeing?

I do believe that no matter WHAT we each are viewing, we carry with us our own subjective lenses and filters. What I view is filtered through my own aged eyes, nearsightedness bifocaledaled contact lenses, through the experiences that temper how I might `know' a scene, the mood I'm in, my fatigue level, my excitement or my fatigue, the experiences I carry with me that inform what I `see'.

I know too that my own skill at rendering what I am viewing is also tempered by my experience or lack thereof, by the tool I'm using to capture the scene, the paper, the weather, the moment in time. Whatever the answers to these questions may be, I think what is important to me is my attempt to capture the `what is so' about my life at that particular moment, through THAT particular framework -- resplendent in all its subjective filters of experience, mood, age, talent.

The experience of `waking up' enough to attempt this articulation through words, sketching, collaging, music, or whatever medium might be my choice at THAT moment IS the ESSENCE of what I think this `arting' thing is all about. My next sketch or journal entry will be different but informed by those I've attempted prior to this `next' one -- and therefore a record of my own `waking' up (or in some cases, falling back asleep! LOL).

For me, it's the experience that is important -- for even that experience reflects where I've been, who I am, what I've become at THAT particular moment, the instrument I'm using, my own ato capturecapture the experience, and thus all these combined, all of these moments inform my choices, my understanding, and ultimately, my life. How I manage to keep this 'awake' state -- pencil, pen, gluestick,MUD, walks in the woods, COFFEE!! LOL, viewing others' works helps to keep me focused on the important thing - experiencing life as fully as I possibly can.

3 comments:

Bonny said...

Hi Lin;

First I love your drawing of you applying mascara! What a wonderful twist to the drawings of eyes. You did a great job, too.

Second, I agree with what you were saying about artist's seeing differently. When I visited Lydia in San Diego and saw her sketching with a brush pen, I noted how fluid and simple her lines were. Not very much detail at all and yet there was never any question as to what she was drawing. I wondered how she knew to put down just those lines and know what to leave out. It was amazing to watch, so confident. I've thought about it and decided it must come with practise and refining how we see things. I also notice how I have become much more attentive when I look at things, since I started drawing.

Bonny said...

Lin; I too cracked up when I read the caption about NOT putting phones in the microwave! All the comments make this so funny!! It's priceless! I really like your journaling in the style of the manual itself.
Beautiful drawing!

Cin said...

wonderful post Lin, I like your description of the drawing experience as "waking up", it does feel like that and it's wonderful!