When I first started to learn to rock climb in 2005, I started noticing rock walls whilst driving around that I had never noticed before……and thought, could I climb that?
When I first started making cheese in 2008 and loved it so much that I decided I needed a sheep (BAAAAD idea!) and then later mini goats, I started noticing unused grassy fields everywhere………and I thought, could I just take my animals there to graze?
Long before those things though, in 1992 my high school art teacher, Mrs. Rahn, taught me to practice painting and drawing by noticing. She told me to practice “seeing” negative space, to observe values and colors and think about how I would mix them. I spend just as much time painting without paint as I do with paint. Careful observation becomes a meditative habit, and can be a great way to log more of those 10.000 hours we need to get to mastery.
It’s free and easy to start. I do this in the car, but also just enjoying others’ company while I’m thinking about the quality of the light on different parts of their faces (It’s best not to tell them this, I find!). Of course, I also do this in the planning stage of each painting. I’m doing my best work when I look very lost, and there might even be some drool starting. Thankfully, that level of concentration doesn’t happen unless I’m alone.
What is your most challenging concept in painting? Color? Quality of light? Getting the values of forms right? The shapes of common objects? Atmospheric perspective? How will you use observation to paint without paint to help overcome that challenge? What things do you look at and think….could I paint that?