Friday, March 8, 2013

The Creative Process: The Ability to See


Anything I picked up about the creative process and how the mind works in that regard comes from years of being a landscape painter and then teaching art on the college level. Recently, as I dig deeper into this genealogy stuff, I've noticed that much of that information also applies to the work we do here. And let me say at the get-go, I am relatively new at researching and writing about the ancestors so we'll leave those skills to others way more learned than I am! But what I am doing here is bringing little items from one area and repurposing, if you will, to another. An old teaching and learning adage says, adapt and then adopt. Take a skill from one discipline, adapt it to the other and then adopt it.

Today we'll chat about "seeing", or seeing into. Most people "look" but they don't "see". I know that you're smart and you get that right off the bat. You understand how a person can look right at another person and not notice the new shirt or hair color, not mentioning any names;)

It was funny with new drawing students just beginning their journey in art. Three categories of students came my way. The graphic design students were after that certificate in graphic design so that they could go get a job. Most were impatient and just wanted to get the three credits and leave in peace and get on to the next thing. They didn't understand the cross-over skills they might acquire by learning how to draw, never mind the clients they could impress by whipping out a cocktail napkin and drawing a sketch of that web page. You can read a very interesting article here about the cross-over skills of drawing and computer coding.

In the second category of students taking drawing were the fine art students who wanted to go to a really good art school and be an animator or illustrator. They already knew about seeing into a subject to catch the essence and taking that information and translating it into a new reality based on the perceived world. They were passionate about the work and invested enormous numbers of hours refining their portfolios.

The third category and the folks I like best (shh, don't tell) were the older students. This group came to the learning with an unrushed attitude and were willing to try it all. Now, who wouldn't like that in a learner?

The thing was, that in order to learn to draw you have to be willing to slow down enough to be able to see and take close notice of what you're looking at, take it all in. The graphics design student wanted the three credits as quickly as possible and got frustrated by the slow pace of sitting in a room drawing what was in front of them. The art school students would spend all day or all year getting that one turn of the object right, and good for them. But the older students knew how to slow their pace, how to engage their brain, how deep to go... and when to stop.

Some people just can't "see". They can't let go of a false reality long enough to learn a new way to do things. Had a young woman who was known in her circle of friends as a good cartoonist. She came is ready to show me her portfolio of sketches and characters. I looked and listened and thanked her for sharing. Everything was cool and friendly. Then we started to draw. She found right away that she could only draw from images she imagined in her head and when she was to inspect a real object sitting in front of her and draw it recording every detail, her brain couldn't handle it. She simply could not let go of one system that was working for her and exercise self discipline enough to learn. She cartooned her way through the semester and we parted barely on speaking terms because she never let go of the old way.

I find myself examining my own practice of genealogy and asking myself if I'm ever looking but not seeing. It can happen. Like the graphic design students, I might get in a rush to get to the next thing. I know that I've done that when I miss something obvious and see it later, wondering how I could have done so.

Or like the art school students, I might dive too deep and waste my time not learning what I need to. A person sure can use up tons of hours flitting form record to record!

I remember my older students and try to pace myself, taking time to see into the work, but keep it moving along. And I remember that young woman who, by contrast, couldn't see at all and therefore missed a whole wonderful world because she only wanted the one reality she imagined to be true. It's a difficult balance.

Nutshell analysis and the obvious take-aways:
* When you can manage it, try an unrushed attitude.
* Ask: what's right here hiding in plain sight?
* Keep the brain engaged and fresh.
* Be willing to let go of the old so as to allow the new to come in.
* Ask yourself: where do I stumble when I'm trying to see? Is this a pattern?

Photo of the day from Aunt Betty's Archive:


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1 comment:

  1. What a great thought and lesson. I've been slowing down and developing my stories behind the people on my tree. My mother did a great job of finding so many people for our tree. Now... I want to know who they are. To do that, I have to slow down, just like you said.