October 3rd, 2011

piranha - chomp.

Art and Observation

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.     -- Henry Miller

That quote was in my day planner today, and it got me thinking about observation and drawing.

I still remember the moment of wonder I felt when I first realized that there was brown in the stem of a flower petal.  All my life, I'd been drawing flowers with green stems, just like you do in grade school with crayons.  Flower petals on top, long green stem.  But I was in Yosemite, sitting on a chunk of granite trying to sketch the Indian paintbrush in front of me, and I suddenly knew that there was red in the shadows, and where the sunlight hit the stem directly there was yellow.  Then the yellow spread into the centers of the flower petals, which weren't just read but also orange and red-orange and even magenta.  Then there was even a tiny bit of purplish-blue when the fuzz of the stem was visible.  I rarely think of the surface of a plant as fuzzy!

Drawing really forces me to look at an object intensely.  When I was in Florence, I might zoom in on a statue's torso or on the brushstrokes depicting folds of fabric in an oil painting, but I would get lost in the piece I was looking at.  If my hands were not busy drawing, I would have reached forward to touch the marble or the canvas, because in order to really see something there has to be physical interaction, too.

Man, I am really missing my pencils and paints right now...