Once we look at something and label it we are no longer seeing it. The left hemisphere of the brain that labels things, has already decided what it thinks it is seeing, if we like it or not, if it is good or bad, right or wrong, pretty or ugly, and all that business. But if you look, and just stay with the looking, and don’t go anywhere with it, then the aperture of the right brain opens up. Then the visual information coming in through our senses begins to dawn. Right brain notices information in real time and is accurate because it is just seeing without any interpreting going on. Seeing from the right hemisphere of the brain may feel slower than what we are used to from the thinking mind. Maybe it is not really “slower.” It might just be the habit of the mind being so quick to thinking about things, instead of just being with things, that makes the experience of the right brain feels slower. But the right brain processes information without any chatter accompanying it so it is definitely quieter!
So, in a “quiet mind” with an “open focus” we are seeing in a less contracted manner. We are not seeing things in an isolated manner... an apple, a bowl, a bottle... but rather we are allowing ourselves to see the apple and bowl and the bottle together. We are opening up the vision to see three things together simultaneously, as one. That is what I mean by “open focus.” This visual communication has great power in it. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and a piece of art is "one whole overall singular communication"...hopefully.
That kind of seeing is new for most people. Most people when they are sitting still, starring at something that is not moving, like a still life for instance, the tendency is for the attention to move toward the objects and almost implode into each one separately. The attention ends up diving into the objects. All the attention goes into the objects and is “over there” somewhere. What I’m suggesting is “come back over here” and open up and see from back here, your attention back within yourself. You’re pulling back behind your eyeballs rather than moving in front of your eyeballs. When you move back behind your eyeballs, and open up the focus, you are not looking at anything but seeing everything. Open seeing..seeing everything..so instead of being imploded in the objects you are back within yourself, seeing everything together as one. Nothing is seen in isolation.
From that vantage point you are actually seeing holistically, you’re holding the whole context and seeing what the parts are doing in relation to the whole, without ever losing the whole. Most people are not used to doing this kind of seeing while drawing. But if they were to practice it, their drawings would get much better very quickly.
If you are practicing seeing in a way that moves you towards that kind of seeing, great. Practicing drawing “things” over and over by starring at them, won’t really help you to see proportion and placement of parts to the whole however. You won’t necessarily get better at drawing doing that kind of practice. There are people who go to life drawing classes for years and don’t seem to get much better at drawing. You could practice a long time and not get a whole lot better at making drawings that hold together, feel glued together and create a singular powerful communication.
If you want the whole drawing to look like it belongs together, then you want to see that way. Seeing in isolation can still give you well rendered drawings, but the drawing doesn’t read as one powerful communication. It just won’t have that integrated tied together, glued together holistic feel to it.
When you are in motion however, you see exactly in this way I am talking about. If you start walking across the room, or hitting a tennis ball, or driving a car, you are seeing everything simultaneously and in relationship or you would run into the walls, and fling your hand and hit something, or you wouldn’t break in time and go through the red light. If you did not have all of that coordination of you moving in 3D, in time and space, you would be at risk of hurting yourself. Right brain is the hemisphere that sees everything simultaneously, and where you are in relationship to it, all at this split second, now. For the right brain there is only ever Nowwwwwwwwwww....
Now is not really a moment that you are in and then out of. It’s always NOW. I’m just suggesting that when you allow yourself to experience just that, you can see what “is” instead of what you think is. All those preconceived idea about what you think you are seeing get in the way of drawing what is actually there in front of us. It’s experiencing something before you have thoughts and opinions “about it” in other words.
One of the things I really want to bring back into art education is this kind of seeing. It is a learnable skill. It’s not like you have to be born with it. It just takes training. It’s not what we are used to doing so it helps to have a coach.