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I’m Starting to See

by | Oct 6, 2015 | Art + Nature, The Practice of Art | 0 comments

Have you ever really looked at something? Now, most of us aren’t blind, and we’ve seen a lot of things, every day, day in and day out. But did you really look? Perhaps you did a double take. A triple take? But, have you taken a long hard analyzing look? It was years before I did.

I thought I had.

One summer in my college years I worked in Yosemite National Park. This allowed me ample time to draw. One afternoon I sat on a meadow path drawing Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. A couple stopped and watched me draw for a minute. The woman made a remark about me being lucky to have enough time to draw when every one else was taking a photo. I explained that I was living there for the whole summer so that I had the time. She said that she wished she had the time but that they had to hurry in order to see everything during their short visit.

I’ve thought about this for years. For a while I had sense of self-righteousness about this. Like, “I looked, they didn’t.” Luckily, I’m starting to get over myself. While I took 30 minutes to look at something that everyone else decided to capture in a split second, I could have looked for much longer. I could have sat there for hours and watched the changes that come with the passing day. There’s only so much time we can spend in one spot, looking at one thing. Many of us have never taken the time to really look at something. Have you watched an entire sunset? It is amazing! Have you stayed up all night and watched the stars move across the sky?

The more I look at something the more I see. I am continually amazed by the “new” things I notice when I spend the time to look.

I had an instructor who had a game where he made everyone in the class turn around and look at an empty corner of the room for 30 seconds. Then he had everyone turn back around to the front and then asked us to each tell a different color that we saw. Some students were shocked, many of us gave the old nervous giggle. That corner had thousands of colors if you really looked which is hard to see in a few seconds. But, that started me on a journey where I look for colors everywhere I go. Sometimes my husband thinks I’ve lost my mind when he catches me just staring at something muttering about “all the pretty colors.” Often I think about how to mix a color that I see. And when I’ve been painting for long stretches of time when I look around I feel like everything is made out of paint!

Back to our nice Yosemite visitors and the statement that “they had to hurry in order to see everything during their short visit”. Now I think “what does ‘seeing everything’ mean?” I’m sure she meant all the normal sightseer sights, Half Dome, the waterfalls, Glacier Point, etc. But when can we qualify that we’ve seen something? I spent five hours looking at one spot along the Umpqua River while doing a painting a few weeks ago. I saw so much more in that one spot than I had anywhere else in a long time. If I go back to that one spot again it will be different. The rocks will be in the same spot, but things will be still be different. Have I seen that spot? Yes and no. And that is okay. In fact, I think that might be wonderful.