Observation exercise


Painting is a unique opportunity watch a picture unfold on the page. Visually, we experience color and tone everywhere, but our mind quickly translates these images into words and concepts to understand and interact with them. Soon as we label an object, “the tree”, “a bus”, “Mr. Anderson”… the unique experience is gone.

One exercise I enjoy is to sit and look at a common object, like a jacket – and try to see it, not as a jacket, but as I actually see it. To look at the color and tone, patterns and textures… without labeling it. Even colors are a deceptive label. A shiny black jacket is rarely black, but an intricate subtle reflection of various colors in the environment. The objective is to look until you no longer see the object, but see what you are seeing.

  • Usability tip #3: If you have trouble dropping labels, then try this: describe the object. Then, question your descriptions and look for the opposite For example, when you see black, ask yourself “how is it not black?”
  • Side-benefit #4: Observing without labeling has the effect of bring me into the present moment, heightening my sensations and sharpening my awareness. This is useful for creativity.