Most of us do not receive formal training in seeing and looking. In fact, looking is an aspect of our existence that many of us take for granted. There is nothing unusual about the workings of our vision. The physical mechanics of sight are complex and research has provided a great deal of information to describe this topic in numerous books and diagrams, which demystifies the process of sight. Vision begins the moment light bounces off an object and passes through the cornea, where the light is slightly refracted. The light then passes through a clear liquid, through the pupil, and through the lens where it is refracted even more. Then, this light travels through the vitreous humor, or the transparent tissue filling the eyeball, until it produces a clear image of the visual world on the retina. A nerve impulse travels down the optic nerve to the occipital lobe, which is the area of the brain that produces sight. The brain processes this information. Our mind miraculously flips and superimposes images from both eyes and puts it all together to give us a complete picture of what we are looking at. This functioning all happens mechanically in the brain. However, when we thoroughly envision this process we realize that sight is quite a spectacular and wonderous phenomenon.
Our ability to form images in the brain is only half of the equation. Seeing requires awareness and a sense of presence. When our eyes rest on an object we become absorbed in what we are seeing. With a sense of curiosity, we look. Then we look even deeper. In this moment we are perceiving and seeing as we are processing visual information. With this practice of seeing, the thinking mind is silenced and our attention opens to a heightened sense of wisdom and curiosity. Consciousness through seeing is not just the mechanical process of the eye and brain, it is an openness and perception that involves the whole body.
When seeing and observing objects, allow yourself to be engrossed, interested, inquisitive. Notice angles, curves, shapes, shadows, colors, patterns. All of this that is in front of you can be seen and absorbed. As you continue to look, allow yourself to become absorbed within that which you are seeing. During this practice of exploring your outer world through sight, notice with your inner eye any physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions. How are you responding to what you are seeing? The third eye provides vision beyond everyday sight. Observation of our internal state gives us deep insights that relate to our inner realm. Our internal condition, or beingness, directly affects how we interpret what we see. Throughout this process, ideally, we find a center of calmness and clarity in the mind and body. In this innermost space we can ask; What is it that you can see? What is it that you cannot see?
Drawing from observation is most literally drawing from life. During this process we are not creating images from our imagination or photographs. The principle practice of observational drawings is to accurately draw what we are observing. Our ability to see directly influences our ability to draw. For creatives who practice visual art and design, intense observation improves many skills including our sense of compositional arrangements and how we depict light and shadow. Drawing from observation enhances our ability to see and interpret the world. Additionally, our inner state influences what we are seeing as we observe our outer world. This beingness is significant. Who we are being during the process of drawing is just as important as the final product. Put another way, what we produce in the outer world is a reflection of our inner state of being. Now ask yourself, what is it that you are putting out into the world?
Brigid O’Kane | firstname.lastname@example.org | ©2018 All Rights Reserved