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Seeing What's Really There

Taking the time to practice.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time drawing. That was one of my resolutions for this new year. Perhaps because there is a simplicity to the winter landscape - the low angle of the sun, the trees without leaves, no flowers to distract me with color, little sound, I find it easier to focus on my drawing in the winter.

Having said that, I have to admit that I draw outside only occasionally. The cold is tough on my fingers, although this winter has been a gift in terms of being able to work outside. I mostly practice on objects in the house – glasses of water, bowls of fruit, chairs with coats or other fabric draped over them, piles of books, shoes, whatever is around.

The tools necessary for drawing are simple – several pencils, several kinds of erasers, a bunch of tortillion (paper “pencils” to blend and shade), something to draw on - and they are very portable.

I draw the same way I paint or play the piano: for my own enjoyment. There are other reasons to draw, however. It makes you really “see” things as they actually are. Assuming your goal is to render an object realistically, the unbelievably difficult task is to first see what is in front of you and then recreate an image of it.  This is marvelous discipline. I might draw something and then say to myself, no, that’s not where those lines really intersect, or the dimensions are off, you’ve made the glass taller than it should be, the ellipse of the opening is too flat, the reflected light is wrong.

Try drawing something from memory and see if you have remembered the object as it truly is. Try drawing something that’s right in front of you.

Years ago I participated in a two-year advanced degree program from Lesley University. Teachers from all over the Metro-West area were part of my group. It was a wonderful program because since we were all currently working, we could take the ideas from our courses right back into our own classrooms and see how they worked, or didn’t work. (And if they didn’t work, why not?) We teachers taught at different levels, and taught different subjects, so it was always very interesting to hear of the experiences everyone had carrying out new approaches and concepts.

The purpose of our program was to discern in what ways the thinking involved in the creative processes of the arts could be applied to other disciplines so that students could learn more quickly, more deeply, and more actively. The theory was that his would result in greater retention of information, and increased skill at extrapolating information and applying it in other situations. We were definitely encouraging thinking outside of the box. (As cliché as that phrase may be.)

One of the Dover-Sherborn teachers reported back to us one week, that the parent of one of her students had complained that the arts had no place in math, science, or whatever class his child was in, and that the teacher should spend her time on more important things – what she was supposed to be teaching.

Now I’m not going to go off on tangent about educational philosophy and methods. My point is this: there are many valuable lessons to be learned from artistic endeavors, not the least of which is SEEING WHAT’S ACTUALLY THERE - not seeing what you expect to be there, what you wish was there, what you “think” is there, or what someone else told you was there – seeing what’s there. And just to make sure you are seeing what’s there, draw it.  

I had a high school art teacher tell me, when she discovered me imitating Modigliani’s style, that I needed to first practice, practice, practice drawing realistically. And when I had a good grasp of that, then I could go off and use that skill, that understanding, to build my own art – whatever that might be.

In musical terms, you can’t do the variations on a theme, until you’ve got the theme.

Does this relate to business? You bet it does. When I invest in a company, I am looking for a company that has done its research, knows every inch of its field, stands firmly on an honest and real base, and now has the experience, imagination and skill to take itself into the future. Whether you are designing and creating electronic devices, cars, communication networks, women’s clothing, or television commercials you stand more of a chance of success if you have a clear and honest perception of the world.

Drawing is an exercise in recognizing the truth. Good discipline.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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