We are walking around now as sad as can be.
The nature of our looking.”
Gilbert and George, The Nature of Our Looking, 1970
I started this blog after being in a painting workshop run by my friend and colleague Elaine, a brilliant watercolour painter and also a speech and language therapist and fellow mediator. She taught us that painting is about two-thirds looking, and one-third doing. Look, really look…and try not to paint what your brain thinks it sees. A chair is a chair, right? Your brain tells you it has four (or maybe three) legs, a seat, maybe a back and arms. But forget all that and just look at the damn thing, and draw what your eyes see, not what your brain sees. Be a good looker and you will learn to paint.
She didn’t actually say all that – I’ve elaborated and embellished, and I hope she’ll forgive me. But what she said resonates with me in so many ways. As a mediator – my vocation for 25 years – I’ve been trained in active listening, hearing people’s stories attentively, indicating without words that I’m paying attention. Interestingly, active listening is about taking in information un-mediated by our own assumptions, beliefs, stereotypes. It’s exhausting but energising at the same time. I think active looking feels the same way. And it takes some practice.
To mix my metaphors, it’s a bit like what’s said about muscles, and brains – use ‘em or lose ‘em. Your creative bone needs to be stimulated, nudged, maybe even poked and prodded. That sometimes feels like too much hard work. I hope this blog will make it easier.
First step - consider the nature of your looking. Don't ask someone else, How do I look? Ask yourself.