Looking at something is easy. You can understand the purpose of certain things almost immediately by looking at them. Their shape, weight and colour will quickly be associated with something familiar in your brain, and you will stop really looking at them, probably in boredom or out of habit. You will interact with them, but virtually stop observing.

Because of the creative journey I have embarked on with my Creative Technology colleagues, I have been prompted to re-examine my observation skills lately.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have been to Kew Gardens on Friday.  Kew is a botanical garden in southwest London and is arguably one of the most diverse and all-encompassing collections of plants and trees from around the world.

Our goal of the day was clear. No photos, and lots of drawings. We would have to record our experience of the day based on four different elements: colours, forms, mechanism and texture.

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To give the reader some background, some of the projects we will have to work on as part of this course are based on the concept of biomimicry, an “approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature‘s time-tested patterns and strategies.”

That being said, we will be given the brief of said projects only next week, so our objective at Kew was to find enough information to be able to create a variety of nature-inspired things without actually knowing what we were looking for. We had to keep an eye out for anything and everything.

Drawing like a child

To try and prepare for this, I’ve recently started reading Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  Even if it comes with some outdated psychological concepts, the book is quite easy to follow.  I’m just at the beginning, but something that grabbed my attention straight away was the concept that, if we stop drawing at a young age, our skill level gets almost “frozen” in time. We don’t forget how to draw completely, but even if our level of knowledge of the world around us grows, our ability to draw it doesn’t. This explains why my drawings, for example, look very childish even now.

I haven’t sat and tried to draw anything seriously since I was 13, so the challenge of drawing from nature was daunting. As a photographer, I could see the patterns, colours and textures, but registering them through drawing proved to be on a different level.

I did not have to just look at the light, shape and composition of a tree, but had to go in much deeper. And whilst a moment of stillness is sufficient to grab an image through the lens of your camera, drawing requires looking both at the subject and your piece of paper. The moment I was looking at how sunlight enveloped a tree trunk, I knew what I was seeing, but when I turned my eyes to the paper, what I had drawn was nothing like that.

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We have spent roughly six hours roaming around, and even at the end of the day, my results were fairly disappointing. Through practice and advice from friends who can draw, I have become more aware of what to look at, and how to reproduce it in drawing. However, I am very conscious of the fact that it will take some time before I’ll manage to bridge the gap between observation and drawing.

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Next week we’re going to start building our first projects. So far we have come up with ideas for a Mindwave controlled feedback device for helping people with stress, an El wire clothing that illuminates and animates based on sensor input, and a tool to collect data from lakes that samples the environment.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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