September 19, 2008

Why do we call a photograph “realistic”? Our field of vision is spherical (as Bonnard noted), not rectangular and has no clear edge. Neither do we see from one, fixed point in space, but from two, shifting points: the images we perceive are not flat, but a three-dimensional construct in the brain. Moreover, a photograph is an instant seized from the constant flow of time within which we live.

My aim for this course is very ambitious: no less than to change your relationship with the world, your way of seeing and of thinking. To survive we fix and simplify what is complex dynamic process: a rich interplay of relationships. We interpret what we see through the lenses of our culture and our technologies, caught in the necessity of limitation (for without limitation there is no form or expression). This limitation is the richness and variety of culture; the difference between a Japanese drawing and an Italian one:  between a 15th century icon and a drawing by Matisse. Our error is to mistake the partial for the whole, an expression for reality: “the world is so – they are mistaken”.

`Observational drawing is a dialogue with the world; a constant discovery of the “ten thousand things” and of ourselves; for the relationship between the two is all that we can know.

“The only wisdom we can hope to acquire

Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.”

Humility is the open reception of and accepting of each experience without judgement; allowing the right brain to experience without the left brain imposing its labels and passing on to the next thing

Open, concentrated attention, without judgement: an active exploration of the relationship between ourselves and the world through a medium of expression…

That is what this course is about; if you undertake this exploration it will enrich your visual vocabulary and your work as designers.



September 16, 2008

“It’s easy: you can do it in no time – it’s really quick and no effort”. Our society promotes ease and instant gratification; instant food, pleasure: instant marriage and divorce. But gratification does not lead to satisfaction. In fact it leads to dissatisfaction, because satisfaction arises through the work, effort, tenacity and surmounting difficulties that gives a sense of achievement.

I find myself more and more using the world engagement, in the French sense; the sense of bringing one’s whole self to engage an idea, a problem or an object: to think, to write or to draw without any sense of extrinsic pressure, punishment or reward. In school there is so much extrinsic pressure, so much time we have to do what we did not choose because we are told to, to get a grade or to avoid punishment that it is difficult to find that engagement that leads to real learning.

The qualities necessary to achieve real satisfaction take discipline, another unfashionable word, meaning staying with something; practising, repeating, reworking, even when the initial enthusiasm fades. Excellence comes from work and attention to detail and caring deeply about what you do.

Do this and you will see further into things, discover new depths, complexity and subtlety and, in engaging difficulty, you will find satisfaction.

Going beyond the surface

September 11, 2008

Facility, diversion, newness; passing from one thing to the next: doing six things at once is part of the condition of modern life. An economy based on consumption demands it. Yet concentration, going deeply into detail and staying with something is necessary to satisfaction. Excellence, quality and depth come from long hours of engagement, reflection and development; trying, changing and retrying.

“Look at a leaf for four hours? You must be kidding!”

“We already did that last week!”

How to encourage and foster concentration and an eye for detail? How to develop a sense of quality and taste without while allowing for experimentation, evolution and the young taste for fashion and newness?