Looking as a Skill and Tool



I recently added a paragraph to my artist statement, as it occurred to me that I had not before mentioned what stirs me about the process of painting:

"Whether painting from life or reference photos, I don't try to replicate precisely what I see with every detail specified accurately. I am more interested in looking carefully to discern what might be new or different in this particular scene that makes it stand out in some special way.  In the act of looking  and then creating my distilled version onto a canvas, my mind becomes very focused and involved deeply on that act.  When I feel that I successfully manifested what I discovered onto canvas, it brings me a sense of fulfillment, that I am able to share what I learned with others."

What I did not also add, because it didn't seem as relevant for an artist statement, is that lately getting in front of that easel and spending even as little as a couple of hours (preferably more!) on a painting has been a balm for my frazzled self. I had vowed when I bought a smartphone that I would not become one of those people constantly checking it, but guess what? It is addictive and the shards of constantly arriving information, images, messages have definitely taken their toll.

Coincidentally, I came across an essay which suggests that my avocation may counteract some of that frazzle and even help bring about increased knowledge from improved observation skills - mine and yours!

"A first glance is just a beginning, the bare makings of understanding. Could close looking be a missing link to the depth in thinking that we increasingly sense we lack?" writes Maggie Jackson in her essay "Catching Our Eye, The Alluring Fallacy of Knowing at a Glance" in the book The State of the American Mind

She shares examples of studies and practices that negate what some technology has aggravated - our restless, short attention spans. In one example, an art history professor recognizes and promotes that "Time... is not the enemy but the vehicle of understanding. Slowness is not an obstacle to progress but a key to the practice of knowledge- making. And close looking is preface to the hard- won making of thought." 

I highly recommend that you take some time to read this essay and perhaps some of her other writing. She is quite compelling and has made me question just how much time to spend on social media. What do you think?

(But for now you can follow me - EllaYangStudio - on Instagram and Facebook!)