It seems like lately I am constantly being reminded of the fact that we often get so caught up in life and forget to pay attention to the world around us. This semester I am taking several Art and English classes and in just the last two weeks both my creative writing and my drawing class have been constantly encouraging me and my classmates to notice and observe our surroundings more closely than we might have done before.

I know that it may seem somewhat obvious that you must really look at objects to really draw them well. But the key to being able to draw or paint well is to really be able to see the object that you are looking at. Sometimes it is harder than you think to rid your mind of the preconceived notions that you have about what an apple looks like, and truly focus on drawing the one that you have in front of you. I guarantee that it will look much different than the shiny, perfectly rounded apple with a stem, leaf, and worm with a smiley face crawling out of it that you might have pictured in your head. My professor gave us this quote and told us to try our best to follow it:

“Bind my attention to both the vigor and detail of the actual world” -Annie Dillard

In my creative writing class we have to keep an image observation notebook where we have to record bits of conversation that catches our ears from other people’s conversations (eavesdropping basically) and also jot down images that catch our eyes or describe people or things. (basically written images of whatever we see) I have noticed that by doing this, I have started to become more attentive to everything that is happening around me. Part of one of the assigned readings for that class really caught my eye:

“Learn the names of everything: birds, cheese, tractors, cars, buildings. A writer is all at once everything–an architect, French cook, farmer–and at the same time, a writer is none of these things.” -Natalie Goldberg

Okay so I know that might seem like it doesn’t relate exactly to what I was talking about, but if you read the entire article, the author is talking about the importance of not only noticing the things that are around you, but also learning the names of them, because knowing the names of these things, especially as a writer, gives you a greater ability to be able to describe an image. She tells about herself deciding to learn the names of plants and flowers in her environment and as she walked around her neighborhood and asked people the names of the plants in their yard, she was amazed at how many people had no idea the names of the plants growing in their own yards. How many of you know the names of all the plants growing in your yards? My point exactly. Sometimes we get so caught up in the busyness of everyday life and we forget to notice and pay attention to the little details. When was the last time that you even noticed the plants growing in your own yard?

So anyway, this week try to “bind your attention to both the vigor and detail of the actual world” and learn the names of some of your plants. 🙂

Natalie Goldberg’s article “Be Specific” from her book, Writing Down the Bones.
Annie Dillard, from her book, An American Childhood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *