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What I See: Observing the World Around Me

Posted: August 31, 2018

By: Saaniyah S., High School Blogger

A single leaf falling to the ground.A leaf falls upon my window sill in my room. It gives me an idea and I look around. Sketchbook? Check. Wooden pencil? Check. Eraser? Check. With these things in hand, I wrap a sweater around me, step outside, and sit on my front porch. My next door neighbors are playing outside, the kids are yelling gleefully, and their dog is jumping on anyone she can get her hands on. I laugh inside. I probably have a dumb smile on my face. It’s fine; no one is looking at me anyway.

I’m still holding my drawing tools. I open the tattered sketchbook — the one I’ve had for ages — to its first page. It’s a drawing of the wooden tree house in my backyard. It was my first observational drawing. I remember sitting on the stairs leading into the backyard that day and deciding to create a sketch the ever-neglected treehouse found on the scrawny oak tree. I admit it was a pretty bad drawing. The roof turned out too pointy and the long ladder leading up to the front door came out too thin. The pencil I was using was probably blunt; I could tell by the oblong edges of the tree house. I look to the bottom of the page and see the date on it: May 21, 2013. It’s been five years since my love affair with the wistful world of drawing what I see began.

Observational drawing, in my opinion, is the most authentic you can get with art. When you draw what you see, you are bringing to life the image in your mind. All the curves made with your pencil, all the shading of the shapes you draw, all the splashes of color you paint with — it’s your work of art. It’s all you. It’s your own masterpiece. Observational drawing allows you to share what the world looks like through your eyes.

One of my art inspirations is the well-known artist, Helen Frankenthaler. Her masterpiece, Mountains and Sea, has long been on view at the National Gallery of Art. Her style is soothing and she captures Earth’s landscapes through her unique lens.

Now, the leaf that sat upon my windowsill falls to the ground beside me. It’s beautiful emerald green rue and symmetrical oak-leaf shape urge me to do what I’ve grown to love. I open to a fresh page of my sketchbook, pick up my pencil, and start drawing what I see. The drawing doesn’t end up looking exactly like the leaf, but it’s not something I fuss over. I embrace its imperfections. I’ve learned to love what I create, because the drawing is not just itself; it’s also me.

Discover more about creativity and art with these books and Ted Talks:

Check out Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary OliverSteal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Tol You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa by Michael Kimmelman
Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative Florence Williams
Syllabus by Lynda Barry

Steal Like An Artist | Austin Kleon | TEDxKC
The Art of Creativity | Taika Waititi | TEDxDoha

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