how do we see?

"In a world where visual information can reach our eyes at the touch of a button, the ability to be truly mesmerised can become thin, as well as our capacity to be truly astonished by it."

Nigel Hurlstone, Programme Leader of the BA(Hons) Embroidery course at Manchester School of Art*, in his introduction to the degree show catalogue.

I often wonder about this. Am I taking the trouble to view things through my own eyes, with my own perspective? Do I pursue the truthfulness of what things mean to me and only to me?

"As teachers of art and design, we encourage our students to see for themselves, and not to be dependent on the vision of others to drive personal expression."

In seeking true originality I need to return to the disciplines I learnt at art school, to fathom out what my own response is, to produce something that comes from the heart of who I am. This is something I feel more and more serious about recently. It is all too easy to experience a sort of vicarious creativity through the alluringly beautiful open windows of artists' blogs and Flickr. After a while a numbness forms.

What are your experiences of this? What do you do to ensure you stay true to your own vision? I would love to hear.

Photos are from York Gate garden near Leeds which we visited today, along with an indulgent trip to Betty's in Ilkley and a lazy sprawl on the grass watching a game of village cricket in the sunshine. Red Kites soaring in the sky. Lovely summer Sunday.

*(This is the course I graduated from twenty-one years ago.)


Jackie said...

I agree that a numbness forms but sometimes, when I'm feeling down about my own work its nice to get the feedback and encouragement that comes from cyberspace. Its good to read thoughtful posts like this too.

Gilly said...

Not too sure what you mean - you can explain it to me sometime, soon, - but then I am not creative like you.

But what are those gorgeous silky-haired things? Like little children's hair looking from above?

(The anti-spam characters below spell "spera" which I rather think has something to do with hope. that's nice!)

PG said...

I enjoy looking at other people's work but I don't find myself going numb or being influenced by anyone else's vison or whatever - I'm far too self absorbed; in art as in life I don't care what anyone else thinks or does; it is a form of complete selfishness or even arrogance, but it is also a sign of self confidence, and trusting yourself.
I think also because I tend to be alone for a lot of the time, and don't do a lot of the distracting leisure things that other people do, most of my time is spent thinking about or working on my 'stuff' - even when I am out walking I am churning over ideas.

Maybe you should think about really setting aside a few days for yourself where you are not going to be bothered by family/phone/internet but can just go for walks, scribble in a sketchbook and get inside your own head without worrying about anyone else - like a retreat, with no-one else around. Because when you were at art school, that is presumably what you did - concentrated wholly on your projects without concerning yourself about the small things in life which can take over as we get older.

Cottage Garden said...

It's good to read such a questioning post. I'm not half as creative as you or many of the other other blogs I enjoy reading, but I do think beauty is in nature and we can all take time out just to enjoy our natural surroundings.
As to the originality of art - I'm not sure about that one...

As to Betty's - been to the one in York - totally indulgent cakes - lovely!

Anonymous said...

hi sue,
once again a very thought provoking post... it is good to have time away from media and external influences and as your quote says we can get a plethora of visual information at the touch of a button these days... it doesn't make me numb but just dizzy sometimes... one can get carried to amazing artists sites.. it is often better to have some quiet time and to just experiment and see where it leads...
your recent holiday looked lovely and your day out too.
warm wishes

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...very thought-provoking. I've never considered that before...I can't imagine what would happen if I actually let my own creativity go wild, instead of taking inspiration from others.

I always seem to see things elsewhere that I wish I had thought of...things that make me think, "oh that's so 'me'", when actually it is someone else. Does that make sense?

This post has really made me think.

Thanks. x

Frances said...

Hello Sue,

Once again, you've got me thinking. Thank you!

What PG has written strikes a chord with me. Peace, quiet, solitude even, for some considerable and regular amounts of time help me to be myself as an artist.

In recent years, I have not been able to find those days. When someone who I know through my current "shop manager persona" politely inquires if I am doing any painting, I almost want to bite their head off. Well, I did say almost! The innocent question just reminds me that I do find it so difficult to get that time and space.

So... let us each try to find that quiet. And let it linger.

Best wishes. xo

cocoa and blankets said...

...your pictures are so much nicer than mine...I must learn how to use my new camera this and hugs H

Lorenza said...

Hi Sue! I agree with all the others that this is another great thought provoking post :) your words, especially reminiscing of your university's learnings strike a chord with me, and although I graduated three years ago and from a different department those teachings are very much still the bread and butter of creativity in Manchester, thankfully. Then again, only three years on and I feel a huge amount of numbness too, mostly because due to work realities (work will never give me the freedom I had at uni) I am just not giving myself the time to explore opportunities, ideas and inspirations what I see brings me.

Throughout my university education I always had many weeks in which to explore and test initial thoughts and feelings to a project and initial ideas and reactions. If I get two days at work now I am lucky. But I guess the strength must lie in ourselves, to ensure we take the time to see through our own eyes and stay true to ourselves.

I say this, but I am the first one to find it the hardest to find this time and make it worth. PG words resonate so loudly, I tend to be apologetic about wanting to spend time on my own ideas and I care far too much about what other people think. I must take PG words on board, maybe we should all do :) thanks PG!

I look forward to reading your blog, it makes me feel the questions and self doubts I ask myself are shared amongst others whose creativity is their life too.

with love and affection
L xxx

Karen said...

If I begin to feel like I'm straying away from my path, I find it helps to go through my old sketchbooks and notebooks from the past.
Helps you remember who you were and are. And where you have come from.

Kitschen Pink said...

I love the internet. I love blog world. I love the dialogue both visual and verbal that happens here. But my real visual moments are often away from the filter of a computer screen. Places where I can look at things 'in the flesh'. Visits to galleries, nature reserves or churches. Where the visual experience also has a smell and texture - an ambiance to make it stronger. These deliver the moments when I am astonished. t.x

Sue said...

Thank you so much everyone for chipping in with your thoughtful comments. There's a lot for us all to think about here :-)

Nostalgia at the Stone House said...

Hello Sue,
I was sent your link by Teena of 'Kitschen Pink', as she knew that I was going through similar thoughts (which I have just written about on my blog).
I have read your post and found myself nodding the whole way through. I have been blogging for 3 years now and its almost as if I have become numbed to the beauty out there. There are so many talented photographers and artists that its easy to become overwhelmed by all the visual information.
I have thus decided to take a blogging break, to get back out there in the real world and to find my style again.
It was lovely to read your so eloquently put post - I'm a visual person and struggle with the written word ;-))

Hope the summer inspires you, Niki.
(PS: I recently saw Red Kites flying in Wales - truly breathtaking)