Monday, July 13, 2015

Seeing Differently

I've been taking a basic drawing class every Saturday for the past two years.

The art school's catalog promises the course will teach you to "see things like an artist."

After many repeat classes (I'm a slow learner) I can vouch that the catalog doesn't overpromise.

Learning to draw, in fact, rewires you to see differently.

You begin to focus on details and relationships that were once invisible to you.

In an essay, the Victorian art critic John Ruskin (himself an artist) contrasts the experiences of two people strolling in the woods. One is "a good sketcher;" the other with "no taste of the kind."

The latter sees only trees. "He will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect, but that the trees make the lane shady and cool," Ruskin writes.

But the sketcher sees more: dancing motes of sunlight; emerald-bright mosses and surreally shaped lichens; gnarled and ancient trees awash in light and shadow; and a canopy of leaves of "a hundred varied colors."

"The enjoyment of the sketcher from the contemplation of nature is a thing which to another is almost incomprehensible," Ruskin writes.

"If a person who had no taste for drawing were at once to be endowed with both the taste and power, he would feel, on looking out upon nature, almost like a blind man who had just received his sight."
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