For example, if I am looking at a leaf, I need to see that the ridges that show depth are really viewed as variations in color. The deeper parts are darker colors. There is usually a lighter band that shows the crest of the ridge. The rest of the leaf is a gradient of darker to lighter color, depending on where the light source is.
This seems very straight forward, but in reality, you have to use a lot of mental control to even be able to see what is going on. Your mind always has an opinion about what it thinks it sees. You will start drawing and your mind will say "You need to make that a paisley shape." So you start drawing a paisley shape only to realize when you look at the leaf again, that it doesn't curve like a paisley or have a rounded end like a paisley, or even have a central motif like a paisley. So you sigh and get out your eraser and start over again, this time ignoring any suggestions that come from any non-visual data banks.
You would think you would only need to have this experience once. But I actually have to shut down a huge section of my brain every single time I draw anything by sight. The brain always wants to tell you what you think you see. It's like the most invasive back seat driver ever. But just like anything else, the more you practice shutting it down and starting it back up, the easier it gets to ignore.
I had this same principle apply in the most random way last month.
My youngest is in 6th grade this year. And she was talking about her new "trans" friend. What? You have a friend who is transgender in 6th grade? I have to admit. I flipped out a bit. I try to be a very open minded person, but transgender is HARD for me. Fortunately I have been practicing not expressing my opinions the second I have them for several years now, and have gotten very good at keeping things to myself, at least until I can get to a safe location to vent.
So I smiled and in my best fake happy mommy voice said "That's nice honey" and walked upstairs before I let the tidal wave of thoughts cloud my judgement. I went through the expected "How can a child know these things in 6th grade?" and "What is wrong with this kid's parents?" I think it was about the thought, "Why has everything gotten so crazy?" when I realized I was being a total jerk. And massively overreacting.
A couple of days later, when my kid was talking about her friend again I said, "Sweetie can I talk to you for a sec?" My kid eyed me dubiously for a minute, then walked slowly towards me. Once she sat down I started with, "I want to talk to you about your friend." She looked a bit nervous and slightly nauseous. I continued, "I haven't quite come to terms with how to deal with people being transgender yet." She was now looking very concerned and fully nauseous. "I think it is amazing that you are comfortable being this person's friend, even though you guys are different. I think you should be friends. That said, I may be a little weird when you talk about them. So I just wanted to be clear. I think this friendship is a good idea. Please continue, even if I am giving off really strange vibes." She looked at me super relieved and said, "Mom, I am so relieved! I thought you were gonna tell me I couldn't be friends with her." This was the point when I realized I needed to start seeing what was there instead of what I thought I was seeing.
Over the next week, I watched my daughter as she video chatted over shared homework with this child. I reminded myself to look with curiosity, rather than judgement. And as I practiced withholding my own bias, something interesting happened. As I looked at the screen, I saw a child who did indeed have some problems. But I also saw a child laughing and having fun with my daughter. I saw two children interacting like children should, telling jokes and gossiping about what happened at school and discussing Sponge Bob and occasionally focusing on their homework. And it hit me like a brick. I don't need to make sense of the world's problems. I just need to help MY world be a better place. And right now my daughter is doing just that, by being a fun friend for this child. That's all most of us want. For someone to accept us and be nice to us as we are right now.
It was the most powerful lesson I learned in 2018. To see what is actually in front of me instead of what I think is in front of me. I had no idea that it would make me a better person as well as a better artist.
Talk to you soon,