Saturday, April 12, 2008

High School Art Classes and Maturation of Seeing

I helped clean out my mother's house last Saturday and found my old art portfolios.

I took art in grades nine and ten. As a grade nine elective, art was one of three choices, the other two being shop (a noisy dirty class for jocks and bullies) and home economics (for girls). Being neither a jock, bully or girl, I chose art. Besides, I figured I'd really like drawing -- I used to enjoy it as a child.

My ninth grade art class was the last one of the day. It was a great way to wind down. I really became absorbed in the work and found solace and escape. (This was Junior High School, after all.) I focused a lot on detail -- bricks in the wall of a building, the bark on a tree, etc. I enjoyed the media of pencil and pen and ink best.

I managed to produce some impressive things and got consistently high grades. One piece won honorable Mention at a local art gallery in a student contest. It was a (partly abstract) pen and ink drawing of a train station.

I dropped art after tenth grade. One reason was that it was the first class of the day. I'm sorry, but art should not be done at 8:00am. Another was that I had classmates that were much better than me. (The classmates were in grades ten, eleven and twelve.) I remember one guy who could draw amazing fantasy creatures. And yet another reason was that this class was such drudgery. In looking through the work, I remember the assignment where I had to turn in four sketches of my hand in one week. There was also some art history that I was expected learn and write essays about! [shudder]

The main point of this post is that I realize now that I could not really see back then. It wasn't until I bought "Drawing on the Right Side of Brain" several years later that I learned how I should visually perceive my environment. Not that I actually could visually perceive my environment, mind you.

And now it's fifteen years later. I'm finally trying to look carefully at what's around me instead of walking about in a fog, ruminating on past conversations and events. I no longer arrive at work, not remembering the drive. I don't very often walk into a room forgetting what I it was I went in it for. I'm almost becoming lucid just like I used to in my dreams years ago.

Seeing seems so simple. But it's not, at least not for me. In fact, there are many things that seem so simple, and yet we don't do them well. Breathing, eating, hygiene -- these autonomous activities suffer from lack of concentration. We eat without paying much attention to the taste and texture of the food, let alone how the food can replenish us. Our breathing becomes more and more shallow as stress weighs upon us. We brush our teeth mindlessly, hoping to get it done quickly, utterly failing to imagine them clean, strong and healthy.

When you see, really look at the scene in front of you. Take in the detail of the tree branches, the iridescence of bird feathers, the diamond-like sparkle of dew on the morning lawn. Be present in the moment. Treat the present as the gift that it is. See it. Feel it. Be it.

1 comment:

Square-Peg Karen said...

I LOVE that book (Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain) - and I love, love, love this post...

YES! to paying attention - being IN the moment. Cool that you were learning bits of that in junior high (to do your art you HAD to be looking) - in junior high I was still tripping over my feet (literally) due to NOT being in the moment...

You KEPT those portfolio's, right? sure hope so!