Seeing the Unseen

One of the goals I have for the coming year is to become more observant. I want to pay more attention, to see with intent and learn to practice observing, rather than just looking. This notion occurred to me after seeing a David Hockney exhibition at The Met in NYC, as well as reading a recent book, which I purchased at the museum, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, by Martin Gayford .

Hockney is quite keen on observing, passionately so, I would say. He is interested in looking with intention with his own eyes, but also utilizing lenses, cameras and the latest technology in service of expanding his view. He has paved the way for a new understanding of the historical use of lenses in artist’s studio before photography was invented. It’s the seeing what is actually there in front of us, not just what we think is there…the way light makes color possible, how we interpret space….all of it.

Although I am an artist, I wouldn’t say that I’m terribly observant. Often small details capture my attention or the way color and pattern create moments of interest for me, but generally, I could use a bit of more intentional practiced seeing to more fully appreciate and understand my surroundings. That requires mindfulness, being truly present and not having one's attention clouded by all that remains to be done...the next thing to do. So, along with the goal of becoming more observant, there must be the effort to slow down and pay attention. This is already looking like a slightly overwhelming task! But as I often remind myself, each moment is a moment of choice. We can choose to stop and pay attention. And the awareness of the choices we have before us in any given moment is actually quite humbling! That alone should bring us to a bit of stillness.


After the finishing (sadly) the book of conversations with Hockney, I read The Man Who Planted Trees: The Story of Lost Groves, the Science of Trees and a Plant to Save the Planet, by Jim Robbins, which is a truly intriguing book about all those things mentioned in the title! What I actually found most fascintating was the lesson on trees and forests, how they function and how integral they are to making life on our planet possible.


Man Who Planted Trees.jpg


This book was a reminder that no matter how observant we are about our surroundings and the natural world, our senses can only reveal so much....that there are limits, of course, to what we can possibly see or observe (unless you are scientist, I suppose). That includes the cell structure and the root systems of course, but also, for instance, the chemical aerosols that are continually emitted by the leaves or the communication system that is established in a forest of trees. We think we know what communication looks like...or sounds like, but it's happening all around us in astonishing ways. All your sustained observations can only give you a glimpse of the intricacies of our universe.

And one of the things that I came to understand in the daily drawing practice this week, came from having read that book. Oddly, I found myself drawn more to making drawings that didn't reference actual things in the outside world. By a certain point in the week, when I was making the drawing and I'd drawn some object, such as the leaves in the piece above (January 15th), I'd erase it (yes, those leaves are erased and barely for once, I'm dismayed at how good my new phone's camera is!)....or mask it like in that little square of paper covering up I can't recall what on the 13th. 

Daily Drawing, January 16, 2018

Daily Drawing, January 16, 2018

The drawing above for January 16th is completely overworked I think, but reflects the process of trying to find the expression. One of the things I struggle with (if it can actually be termed a struggle) in the daily drawing process, is trying not to make "art." Which means letting the drawing be the drawing and not trying to "fix" it or edit it. And at the same time, there is a need for satisfaction or resolution of some kind....or of having "said" the thing that needs to be said. In the end of course, I want them to be art, artful at least, but it has to come through the back door, otherwise I put too much pressure on myself. 

So, you may feel differently, which would be delightful to me, but my favorite from this week is from January 13th. It feels spare and minimum and a bit odd and though it may call to mind "things" of the world, there isn't an actual depiction. I may see it all differently next week, but now that little grassy mound on the 14th makes me want to block it out. I won't, but I long to!

All this is to say, even as I attempt to be more observant in this world and of this world, my real interest is in somehow giving voice to the things we cannot see, the things we cannot name and those which are fleeting and ephemeral. And maybe that's where the seeming irony of seeing the unseen comes into play....if you aren't careful and watchful, you miss all those glittering gems of the way the fleeting shadows fall across the floor just at the moment you happen to turn your gaze or how the trunk of a tree reflects a warm golden pink in the afterglow of a certain sunset. 

All these little dailies (minus January 16th, which I've rejected) are all available at Missouri Bend Studio should you want to look further. If these thoughts resonate at all, please feel free to comment or contact me....I'm always interested in the conversation! Cheers!