Excellent post on WetCanvas by Harley Brown – the importance of observation

I found a thread called “Harley Brown’s eternal truths” and it was started quite a while ago on WetCanvas (the biggest and best art site that I am aware of). Harley Brown goes by the name of  “makinart” in that thread and I was impressed with a recent post from 08-19-2012. It made an caught my eys because had a related conversation with my nephew not long ago. Here is the post:



The first sentence out of the instructor’s mouth, (and you’ve heard this one before)……… “the most important thing you will learn here is HOW TO OBSERVE.”

We thought, hey, we’re here to be artists; we know how to see! What’s with this observation stuff. Now, the instructor did put “weight” into his words to give them significance, but we were a smart bunch of freshmen and we thought, “yeah, okay maybe.”

Bottom line? I’m still working on this project of OBSERVATION. And I think it is one of those things in life that we practice and learn to the end. My sense of what I’m looking at has changed a bit over the years just as my physical and mental nature are not precicely what they were decades ago.

To fill you in on my understanding of observation, it is indeed complex and fully understandable at the same time. We look and see the world around us as does most everyone else. The difference is that over the years and years of using my eyes, I now by pure habit look with the intensity of an eagle scanning prey. Now, my eyes “own” what they are looking at…….to this level: understanding the subtle values, shadows, hues, shapes even as they move. It is, in two words, my life.

And how I interpret what I’m seeing has to do with the extent I’ve trained both my (1) acute observations and (2) ability to lay them on paper and canvas. The second part of that sentence doesn’t exists without the first. And the first part is what that great instructor mentioned that first day of class.

These days, I’m not nearly as smart as I was that first morning of art college. Now, I “get it” how we humans acquire knowledge and skills. Actually a better way would be to say, “getting it.”

Realizing that I’m in the process of “getting it” is the thrill ride of my life. Believe me. This is not an art tip or principle; this is one of those few “ground rules” as we walk on to that big welcoming field to to play our life-game.