Sunday, April 21, 2013
Drawing to Enhance Experience
I was following advice from Alain de Botton in his excellent book The Art of Travel, in which he writes about and quotes John Ruskin, who suggests that the optimal way to "possess beauty" is to sit quietly and take a long time to draw or "paint word pictures." Ruskin, writing in the 19th century, said that drawing could teach us to see, and therein lay its value. DeBotton paraphrases Ruskin when he explains that "In the process of recreating with our own hands what lies before our eyes, we seem naturally to evolve from observing beauty in a loose way to possessing a deep understanding of its constituent parts and hence more secure memories of it." (p.217)
De Botton (and Ruskin) maintain that careful, detailed description-- painting word pictures-- can have the same effect as drawing. But that whether drawing or writing, one needed to take time and attend to details. Ruskin deplored the new rushing about that people in his time did. He was actually a fan of photography, but not in the context of possessing beauty. He said that photography actually diminished pleasure and memory for the majority of its users. "Rather than employing it as a supplement to active, conscious seeing, they used the medium as a substitute, paying less attention to the world than they had done previously, taking it on faith that photography automatically assured them possession of it." (page 219).
DeBotton (and Ruskin) insist that this kind of drawing is not about producing art, but is rather a wonderful way to enhance memory and deepen our experiences. The sketch that I did is full of flaws on the level of "art," but I felt happily engaged in the event while I was sketching, and I began to notice the interesting contrast between the whirling dervish-like TKD practitioners who were taking their tests and the calm, thoughtful, sitting judges. It all began to seem like a dance, and the entire group-- testers, judges, audience-- seemed to me to be one pulsing, changing, living organism.