Notice What You Notice

In my podcast, I am doing a four part series on lessons I learned from Art & Fear by Bayles and Orland. Tomorrow, I’ll release part 3, but today I want to share a passage that I think of often, but didn’t make the series (emphasis mine).

It’s all a matter of balance, and making art helps achieve that balance. For the artist, a sketchpad or a notebook is a license to explore — it becomes entirely acceptable to stand there, for minutes on end, staring at a tree stump. Sometimes you need to scan the forest, sometimes you need to touch a single tree — if you can’t apprehend both, you’ll never entirely comprehend either. To see things is to enhance your sense of wonder both for the singular pattern of your own experience, and for the meta-patterns that shape all experience. All this suggests a useful working approach to making art: notice the objects you notice.

When I am reading, when I am working, I am trying to be aware of when I smile and feel a rush of insight or understanding. I am trying to realize that I am noticing something. Notice my notice. I don’t know what to do with it yet, but what I am doing is making some kind of mark—taking down a note or a photo—just to remember the moment so I can deal with it later.