After realizing that the children could use some basic drawing support, I determined to fill the center table in the studio with a beautiful still life of natural materials and spend a day focused on looking and drawing what we saw.The children enjoyed the process of examining shells and flowers.  With 6B pencils on white 6 x 6 paper, they carefully recorded their findings.  As they worked I drew alongside them, quietly talking through my process of looking, examining, drawing and looking again.  We discussed shapes and lines, composition and content.  It was a very quiet process, each one of us deeply engaged and concentrated in the act of looking and drawing.As they worked I recorded their words and insights on paper.  Here are a few quotes:

“You have to concentrate! Really concentrate!” – Claire

“I’m trying to focus!” – Lily

“We are quiet because we use our mind.” -Tierney

“I’m focusing on this thing…let me turn on my brain”. – Claire

“Me too!” – Lilly

“I found a little pokey thing on my shell.  I’m drawing a big hole cuz of the hole in the shell.  I can hear the ocean.” –  Helen

“I’m gonna draw the flowers….I need a magnifying glass.” – Bodhi (We got three magnifying glasses for this purpose.)

“How do you draw this flower?” – Emmy

“It’s easy.  I’ll show you.  First draw a circle, see here (pointing to the circle at the center of the flower).  Then count the petals.  Four.  Draw 1, 2, 3, 4 and put a dot in the middle (pointing to the stamen).  I have five ones too but this flower only has four….(looks again at the flowers using a magnifying glass) I’m like a detective looking at flowers.” -Sawyer

“I can hear the ocean in here!” – Oliver holding up a shell

“I can see lines going through (pointing to shell and really examining it with a magnifying glass) I see ones going down into the hole.” – Luke

Exercises in looking are such a good reminder that we can draw anything once we really SEE it, devoid of labels and concepts with the clear eye of inquiry.  As adults we are so eager to give words to everything, “shell”, “flower”, “vase”, “gourd” but in so doing we must carefully remember that a name is a pointer only.  The thing itself is a mystery.  When we truly look at something it is transformed from something quite ordinary into something vastly extraordinary and worthy of awe.


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