Seeing With Eyes Wide Open
A few weeks ago I wrote about being nervous when I took my camera out around the city. I’m happy to report that it seems the pervasive sense of paranoia is beginning to settle down. I had the opportunity to take my camera out and about again, and I think I did a much better job of capturing the images I intended.
Years and years ago, I took several drawing classes. The teacher used the book “Drawing on the right side of the brain” as the text for the classroom. I highly recommend anyone who enjoys art read it. The artist found that most people’s ability to draw peaks around the age of 12. After that, self-portraits and drawings end up looking very much the same regardless of how old the artist is. They did some digging and found out that when we draw something, we’re doing it with the wrong part of our brain.
Can I ask you to do something for me? If you’ve got a piece of paper nearby and a drawing utensil, draw a picture of an eye. It’s cool, I’ll wait.
Okay, you done? Chances are, most of you probably drew (or if you’re profoundly lazy like myself, envisioned) an almond shape with a pair of circles inside of it. Now take just a moment and look at your eyes in a mirror. Or, if you’re profoundly lazy like myself, Google it. Do you see the differences? How many details the first attempt missed? Why is that?
When you tell yourself to draw something, the very first thing you do is draw a symbol that represents that thing and not the thing itself. Your brain is arrogant. I tell you to draw an eye, and somewhere your brain goes, “Pffft, I know how to draw an eye!” and what comes from your pencil is a symbol that we all know means eye, but is that what an eye looks like? Probably not. The very first step in drawing something is not to draw it, but to see it.
This sounds easy, but it’s harder than it sounds. Your brain will not want to lose control. It will want you to draw your almond-circle eyes because it thinks it knows what it’s doing. It doesn’t.
Take a minute and look at your eyes. Really look at them. Notice the shapes. Notice how the pieces all come together. I know we all ignore it when a blog tells you to do something, but you’ll amaze yourself if you try this: draw your eye again, but this time, use your own for reference. You’re not going to make it perfect, don’t stress out over it. But you’ll be shocked at how much better your second version was than your first one.
This, my friends, is what sets an artist apart from everyone else… An artist has learned how to see what everyone else looks at.
I’ve been shocked to discover that this is true of photography just as much as it is for drawing. When I went out with my camera, after a while I started developing a kind of “sixth sense” for finding compositions that I really liked. My eyes began looking at the world differently. There was a shift where I went from looking at the surface of the world around me to truly seeing it, and it was wonderful. What really excites me is that it’s already becoming something like a muscle… I can tell myself to turn it on and off. It feels a little like a superpower… I’m still learning how to wield it properly, but I think I’m getting there. For your consideration, I present my latest photos: