Thursday, 23 February 2012

Looking Hard



At Christmas my lovely daughter-in-law, knowing me to be a scribbler at all levels, gave me this special sketch book. Entitled 'One Sketch A Day - A Visual Journal', it is exactly that. The space for each day's small sketch is numbered, and there are a year's worth of spaces.
I started on Christmas day, and have drawn a quick sketch every day since. I am determined to complete the year.
I've drawn in the house, in the garden, in the place where I work as a volunteer, at the bus-stop, at the station - anywhere my daily routine has taken me.

I am seeing things differently. I am looking very, very hard at the details of my life, at the complexities of everyday objects, at the miraculous patterns of leaves and twigs, flower buds and fungus. It takes no more than ten minutes a day - maybe fifteen if I indulge in a bit of colouring-in, but in that time I feel my thoughts and vision changing.

Jenny Woolf, in her lovely travel writing, describes 'here' the happy effect of discovering previously unnoticed details in the background of her own photographs. It's easy for this to happen in photography, impossible in drawing.

Things I have spent even ten minutes studying, looking at really really hard are now etched into my visual cortex, so that as I lie in bed at night I can still marvel at the complexity and perfection of a stalk of sprouts. (Fond as I am of spouts, I had not appreciated the way they spiral round their main stem, presumably reacting to changing light. How clever is that?) Oh, the joy of sleeping alone, to be able to lie in peace, conjuring images of sprouts!

The jackdaw shown in the sketch has also appeared in written form in my blog 'here'. A few days ago he posed unwittingly for the time it took me to draw him, becoming increasing irritated by my failure to move and provide food, occasionally stamping his feet and frequently shouting at me. I feel I have him pinned down now, in words and images. I know the way his feet work, and the fact that some of his feathers have frayed ends. He knows that if I am visible, even if immobile for a while, it is worth stamping and shouting, as food will surely come.

I have studied and sketched the elaborate canopy of the railway station, the details of a bridge in the park, lots of architectural fragments, some elaborate Victorian candlesticks that I've dusted for years but never really looked at, and lots and lots of details of my about-to-burgeon garden.
A great daily exercise.

16 comments:

marigold jam said...

I wish I could draw like that too but I find that with the camera too I am often aware of details which I might otherwise have overlooked and amazed at the complexity of even the most simple things. The pattern and design in things I find really interesting. I think that to take 10 minutes each day to really "see" the things arround us would be a very good exercise so even if I am not as artistically endowed as you obviously are perhaps I can have my 10 minutes and even lie in bed thinking of sprouts if I so wish!!

Molly said...

What a great idea! You obviously have talent. An art teacher once told me that it's 10% talent and 90% practice. It will be interesting to compare your January sketches with those you do in November...Judging by these, we should be seeing masterpieces by then!
So true about all the wonderful details of everyday things that we mostly don't notice!

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold and Molly: thank you for your comments. I agree with Molly that the practice is much more important than any talent there might be. I can see an improvement since January - mostly because I draw straight off with ball-pen, so all the errors are visible. The more you look the more you see - so true of life in general!

gz said...

Lovely! Practice does work!!

Frances said...

How gifted you are! I think that your sketches are marvellous.

The Elephant's Child said...

I am not a fan of sprouts but you have made me stop and appreciate their beauty. Thank you.
What a wonderful gift to you, and from you to us.
The little things are soooo important aren't they?

Zhoen said...

Attentiveness practice.

Leslee said...

Wow, what a wonderful practice - and such talent, too! The physical world really is stunning in its complexity and beauty.

Relatively Retiring said...

gz: I think you know much more about practice and perfecting a skill than most people.
Frances, Elephant's Child, Zhoen and Leslee: thank you, but I know I'm not very good - I just enjoy the practice and the focus. Glad you're learning to love sprouts, Elephant's Child. Have you ever really looked at caulifower?

herhimnbryn said...

Your sketches are beautiful RR. Such a talent. I take your point about really looking at things. It does open your up to some marvelous moments.

Fire Bird said...

this reminds me of my uplifting and awarenesss-enhancing experience with the Small Stones in January, and is inspiring to read about, as I have fizzled into flatness in February.

Relatively Retiring said...

HHnB and Fire Bird: thank you for your comments. I greatly appreciate the short focus and the emphasis on detail at the moment.

Jenny Woolf said...

What an inspired present!

Did you go to art school? Your drawings look as if you were properly trained - something about the line of the sprout stem and also the way the jackdaw is so three dimensional.

And in ball point too! I am very envious of your ability. No way could I do that in ball point. I spent a day last year trying to draw the extremely ugly view from a window, and must have gone through half a rubber trying to get each hideous little detail in the correct relation to all the others.

Oddly I felt very fond of the view by the time I had finally finished drawing it. Nature and sheer chance have a way of making things look right, and the trick I suppose is to catch that rightness. Beauty (I hope) comes later.

Thank you very much for your kind remark about my blog.

Molly said...

You are so sweet RR! I'll be sure to let you know!

Isabelle said...

Goodness, your sketches ae excellent! I know what you mean about looking, though. I'm not so good at drawing but do like to look at, for example, the different colours of green in one tree.

(And one certainly has to look at those blasted letters underneath this...)

Sarahmumof3 said...

a friend has just sent me a one sketch a day journal and I googled and landed on your blog so thought I would stop y and say hello and say I am so so looking forward to starting my sketch diary - it truly is a lovely gift :)