Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Developing artistic vision

It is possible to develop artistic vision, and its easier than you might think.  My thoughts on training  artistic vision are illustrated from beach walks while on a winter holiday enjoying the Pacific Rim National Park, between Ucluelet and Tofino on the west coast of British Columbia.

Go for a walk where there is lots of nature and only a few humans.

Do not spend too much time gazing out at the view.

Artistic vision is better developed by finding what is small, ordinary and unremarkable.

 See deeply into the forms and textures.  Take time to really see, not just look.

Developing artistic vision requires curiosity.  Be like Leonardo de Vinci, always observing and then asking questions about the why and how of phenomena so commonplace that most of us don't notice them at all.

How did this rock become such a complex texture and color?  What is the story of its forming in time and temperature that it would be worn by the ocean and elements into such beauty?

Have the patience to bypass the drama that shouts for attention.

And sit instead in front of what is quiet.

Go deeply into the quiet that allows you to experience each tiny life as it burgeons forth, clicking and murmuring toward its destiny.  Why are barnacle shells striped? And why these colours instead of some others?  And what pigments would I use to mix these colours?

One of the stories I wrote for the Journey Oracle divination deck is about a young girl being taught by her mother to sit still enough to really see.  The little girl is our inner artist, and the mother is certainly Nature.

A Journey Oracle fairy tale
There was a young girl who was always moving. She had a determination to be useful and so she moved her hands in purposeful ways, but sometimes to the loss of her eyes and ears, which mostly saw and heard the world in a maze.
As she grew her mother encouraged her to be a student of stillness, and taught her a special way of looking at things. “Do you want to see this eye?” Her mother would ask, which meant do you want to see this object in a way that belongs to the object and not to the human looking at it. She would show her how to look at the surface of something, and then find a smaller space on that surface and look into it, and then find a smaller space in that smaller space, and to do this smaller and smaller looking until finally the young girl was seeing cells of wood and hairs on plants and dust on butterfly wings. And of course her mother knew that to look that closely, one must hold quite still.
The young girl’s mother taught her a special way of listening to things. She said “Be in your heart when you listen.” She told the young girl to sit by water and listen for a small sound, like a gurgle riffling over a stone. And then listen for another, slightly larger sound, like the chuckle of water pouring over a rock—without losing the little gurgling sound, and then listen for another larger sound without losing the two smaller sounds. The young girl practiced listening by holding these separate sounds together. When she was able to hear many at the same time, it seemed her awareness expanded into a vast dreamscape of stillness.
       When the girl was older she still moved her hands in useful ways, but was also able to go inside, meditate, and be still. She would pause in her purposeful work—and see a spider’s eye looking back at her; she would close her eyes, and hear the voices of water.