Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Changing Focus Changes the World

A recent sketching exercise in exploring focus has made me think quite a bit about how changing our focus on anything we encounter in life impacts how we go forward.

As part of Liz Steel's terrific Sketching Now Foundations course, I had to choose one setting and draw several quick thumbnails of it.  With each thumbnail I changed how I looked at the scene.  I framed it horizontally and vertically.  I zoomed in and out.  I shifted things to the right and to the left.

You can see how different just these first four thumbnails look!

If I had just drawn the sketch without these thumbnails, I would probably have gone with my first version.  But because I did zoomed in on the boat's cabin, then did a focus on just the boat, I saw the craft and its depths differently.   Then, by shifting my vision to the right, I discovered a little building on the hill which just put the whole thing in a wider perspective.

I decided to do a sketch very close to the first one, but with the boat located more carefully on the one third dividing line (better for composition).  And, because these thumbnails had helped me see just how incredibly complex that boat was, I did a set-up sketch in watercolor pencil to help make sure that I got the boat right when I inked it.  Other than that, I just did quick lines to indicate the rocks, the horizon and the mountains.  I debated about putting in that house on the hill and decided not to.

My next step was to ink the drawing.  I chose to ink the darkest of the darks because I wanted to be sure that depth and contrast--part of the interesting complexity which I had discovered doing the thumbnails--really came through.  You can see the watercolor pencil lines are still there.  I used Noodler's Kung Te Cheng ink, a blue which I love and which I have found to be utterly waterproof (much more waterproof than Noodler's Bulletproof black).

Finally I added the watercolor, going over the whole sketch first to wash away the remaining watercolor pencil grid lines.  Almost all of this was done wet on wet, except the tiny spaces on the boat cabin.

The thumbnails took about 10 minutes to complete, the pencil sketch about 10 (because I found the boat really hard), the inking very few, and the watercolor about 20 minutes--most of which was drying time between layers and so spaces wouldn't bleed into each other.

So what did this drawing exercise teach me about the meaning of life?

Look at a person or situation from a variety of perspectives not only changes what you see, it changes how well you understand the thing you are studying.  Take the long view.  The short view.  The wide view.  The narrow view.  Look up close.  Examine the whole thing in a much wider perspective.  In the end, no matter what point of view you decide to take and operate from, you'll be more informed and more sensitive to the complexities and nuances which exist.

The lesson also reminded me about how hard it is to really understand anything that is not me.  I think I know what a boat is and how it is shaped and that understanding should help me understand the boat in front of me, right?  But no!  Wrong!  My idea of "boat" just gets in the way of my seeing the true depths and complexities and beauties of the actual boat I am encountering.  How much more must that be true of things like people or problems?  How much does my idea of "teenage male" or "rich hedge fund controller" get in the way of my genuine interactions with the individuals I meet?   How much do my ideas of various problems get in the way of my really looking at situations and maybe finding new and different solutions?

Drawing makes life richer in so many ways!

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