Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The science of Seeing.

I admire John Ruskin.

Big beard = Wise man? 
After reading his wikipedia entry I'm not convinced I'd have liked him in person, but as he died a LONG time ago, that point is irrelevant.

John Ruskin was an art critic. Quite an influential one, the kind where if he didn't like your paintings, you kind of went nowhere.

Beyond his extensive artistic efforts, or perhaps as part of them, he was a writer, teacher, and environmentalist. He dedicated much time and effort to the preservation of not only nature but to a slower and more traditional lifestyle where man could reconnect with nature in all its beauty.

Said he: "The highest reward for man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it."

While I am quite certain that my artistic efforts would have been deemed woefully inadequate by Ruskin, I am sure that he would appreciate that I was making the effort as he spent years teaching tradespeople and other working class men how to draw.

Ruskin believed that everyone and anyone could learn how to draw, and that by drawing you could lean how to really see the world around you. To make us happier, help us to notice the beauty in the details. In 1857 he said "My efforts are directed not to making a carpenter an artist, but to making him happier as a carpenter"

I have to agree. Nothing, certainly not taking photos - which I also love to do - can compare to the appreciation you get from spending time studying something in order to replicate it's likeness onto paper. I think that getting into the practice of Seeing makes us better at everything that we do.

This is a bad photo, but it was at about this point
that I realised that gum trees have an awful lot of very
twisty branches, and even more leaves... 
To his students Ruskin said: "I have not been trying to teach you to draw, only to see. Two men are walking through Clare Market, one of them comes out at the other end not a bit wiser than when he went in; the other notices a bit of parsley hanging over the edge of a butter-woman's basket, and carries away with him images of beauty which in the course of his daily work he incorporates with it for many  a day. I want you to see things like these."

So it's time to slow down. To take notice, to record, and to possess these beautiful details and moments through drawings, or 'word paintings' (Another Ruskin thing - describe what you see, and how it makes you feel)

I feel like I have written a lot in this blog post, but it is not without purpose. All these things just inspire me more to be more diligent in my journals. Art, writing, whatever.

"No changing of place at a hundred miles an hour will make us one whit stronger, happier, or wiser. There was always more in the world than men could see, walked they ever so slowly; they will see it no better for going fast. The really precious things are thought and sight, not pace. It does a bullet no good to go fast; and a man, if he be truly a man, no harm to go slow; for his glory is not at all in going, but in being."


  1. I'm sure I've heard the end part of that last quote in someone's talk at church. I don't recall the topic they were speaking on or anything else, but the quote sounds familiar. I like the ideas mentioned here of seeing and of becoming. I need to figure out a way to slow down and spend more time writing in my journal. I haven't even finished filling in Kaira's 'my first year' book. How bad is that?! :S