"Painting is liquid thinking." James Elkins

"Painting is liquid thinking." James Elkins

Friday, March 14, 2014

John Ruskin's Drawing Lesson

I have been reading Alain De Botton's The Art of Travel, a delightful book that investigates the mercurial attitudes travelers bring to their experience. One of the segments is about John Ruskin, an 19th century artist and writer who was one of the earliest proponents of the benefits of drawing as an educational tool. He recommended that EVERYONE should be required to draw! I am very fond of Mr. Ruskin.

But he also developed another exercise that he required of his students when traveling. He recommended that they should practice "word-painting," a form of writing that briefly describes a scene or experience in exquisite detail. His reasoning was that when practicing "word-painting,"  one becomes totally absorbed in "seeing" the world rather then the usual browsing that happens when one travels. He argues that such "seeing" will out last the limitations of a photograph when the journey is over because it will help the student to develop an eye for the visual aspects of life.

So today I spent the day observing the details. Here is one on my "word images":

Birds were the first musicians.

Drinking coffee at the breakfast table I saw a tiny brown wren sitting on top of the bell which is perched on top of the well house about 20 feet from the window. The sun had just blazed through the magnolia tree on the east side of the garden, so there was a lovely warm filtered light washing over everything. The wren lifted its head skyward and let out a full throated warble I could hear from inside. It's cream colored breast was warmed by the sun. Its throat muscles strained to let us know he was awake.

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