Lessons in Art

Draw what you see, not what you know. This seemingly simple lesson is one I was taught years ago. It sounded straightforward enough. I merely had to rely on what was before me, resisting my mind’s impulse to fill in the gaps. How hard could it be?

As it turns out, in art and in life, the lessons are rarely as easy as they may appear.

So often, we close our eyes to what’s in front of us, and depend instead on what we know, or worse yet, what we think we know. Assumptions are made based on previous experience and conclusions are drawn from what we expect to find.

This can simplify our lives tremendously. Yet the consequences of such patterns quickly outweigh the rewards. Imagine the opportunities missed because we dismiss them before seeing what they hold. Or the faces we file away, without ever learning the stories behind them.

To draw what you see, not what you know, requires patience and practice. As does quieting the voice that enables us to live with our eyes closed. But if we make efforts to respond to the visual, along with the visceral, the results will likely surprise us.