Last weekend I heard someone say that he and his wife had decided to start "looking for beauty" in their surroundings. They even purchased a digital camera to document the beauty in their world. Now I'm not exactly an artistic person, but this phrase, "looking for beauty," stuck with me. I thought about those rainy early spring mornings when I waded through mud to take pictures of flowers in my yard. That's what I was doing--looking for beauty--because at the end of a gloomy Portland winter I needed all the beauty I could find. But too often I don't make the effort to see the beauty in my everyday life.
I complained to an art teacher once that I couldn't draw. He said, "Your problem isn't that you don't know how to draw. It's that you don't know how to see." He talked about looking at something closely, really seeing the details, then drawing while looking at those details. I tried it... and I actually drew something almost recognizable. My husband, a natural artist, notices every detail about everything, even at 70 mph on the freeway (not always a good thing). So maybe the key--or one key--to artistic talent is how we see, taking the time to look closely and see the details in our world.
I still don't draw, mostly because it's too much of a struggle for me. But I'm trying to apply this lesson through photography. When I'm taking pictures, I find that I notice more, both in my everyday surroundings and when traveling. I see not just landmarks and spectacular views, but also light and color and patterns. For example, when I went to LA a couple of weeks ago, I took the usual touristy pictures, but I also noticed an especially shiny spot in a small tar pit. The pattern of light and sky reflected in the edge of a pool of tar caught my eye and made a cool picture:
There's so much beauty in even the most mundane of surroundings, if we only take the time to see it.