Monday, January 11, 2016

being present

I had this conversation with a friend at a New Years' Day party about what I have in my sketchbook. Why did I spend my time sketching the art while visiting a famous art museum?  What was I trying to do? Copy the art? Why don't I walk around viewing the art and reading the information provided as other people do?
My answer to my friend came from many years of  learning how to develop my ability to observe.
To be present in the moment is a cliche phrase now, I see it used everywhere  to sell one self-help idea or another.
I also watch people at museums, watch their behavior and most of the time they are only going through the motions to say they were there. This past year in Washington D.C., Chicago, and Italy I saw a lot of people walking through galleries and past priceless exhibits. If the exhibit was something especially famous, a visitor must have photos taken of themselves as the main subject with the famous art in the background! How strange.

I take my sketchbook and draw what I am looking at because it helps me to really SEE what I am looking at.
As I draw, my mind is gathering observations that I would not have noticed if I had merely walked through the gallery.
While I am sketching the slope of a shoulder, the arc of a landscape, the light and dark pattern of a composition, I am immersed in that place, that person who made that art, present at that moment.
As I look longer more questions come to mind; why did the artist make this decision or that one? How did they decide which detail to focus on? What does it mean that she used this detail? Is this a metaphor? I am able to marvel at a genius at work in a way much deeper than if I walked through the room and took a photo. These sketches are from a recent visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.