I've started to learn photography and I start to appreciate what makes a good picture. One of the problems that I've noticed is how to look to the world. For me, taking a picture is a kind of tunnel vision from the reality, just crop a portion of the space.
The other day I took this picture because my girlfriend told me, "Look there and take a picture!". The picture was there but I could not see it.
I'm reading these days Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull president of Pixar Animation. One of the problems that have the new animators sounds familiar to me. It's a different problem, but it is related to recognize the space and the picture.
What are your thoughts about my concerns and this excerpt from the book?
For instance, in drawing a chair, the new artist might draw it poorly, because she knows what a chair is supposed to look like (and that chair in her head—her mental model—keeps her from reproducing precisely what she sees in front of her). However, if she is asked to draw what is not the chair—the spaces between the chair legs, for example—then the proportions are easier to get right, and the chair itself will look more realistic. The reason is that while the brain recognizes a chair as a chair, it assigns no meaning to the shape of the spaces between the chair’s legs (and, thus, doesn’t try to “correct” it to make it match the artist’s mental model).
The lesson is intended to help students to see shapes as they are—to ignore that part of the brain that wants to turn what is seen into a general notion: a model of the chair. A trained artist who sees a chair, then, is able to capture what the eye perceives (shape, color) before their “recognizer” function tells them what it is supposed to be. The same thing is true with color. When we look at a body of water, our brains think—and thus see—blue. If we’re asked to paint a picture of a lake, we pick the color blue, and then we’re surprised that it doesn’t look right on the canvas. But if we look at different points in that same lake through a pinhole (thus divorcing it from the overall idea of “lake”), we see what is actually there: green and yellow and black and flashes of white. We don’t let the brain fill in. Instead, we see the color as it really is.
I want to add an important side note: that artists have learned to employ these ways of seeing does not mean they don’t also see what we see. They do. They just see more because they’ve learned how to turn off their minds’ tendency to jump to conclusions. They’ve added some observational skills to their toolboxes. (This is why it is so frustrating that funding for arts programs in schools has been decimated. And those cuts stem from a fundamental misconception that art classes are about learning to draw. In fact, they are about learning to see.)
Whether or not you ever pick up a sketchpad or dream of being an animator, I hope you understand how it is possible, with practice, to teach your brain to observe something clearly without letting your preconceptions kick in. It is a fact of life, though a confounding one, that focusing on something can make it more difficult to see. The goal is to learn to suspend, if only temporarily, the habits and impulses that obscure your vision. I did not introduce this topic to convince you that anyone can learn to draw. The real point is that you can learn to set aside preconceptions. It isn’t that you don’t have biases, more that there are ways of learning to ignore them while considering a problem. Drawing the “un-chair” can be a sort of metaphor for increasing perceptivity. Just as looking at what is not the chair helps bring it into relief, pulling focus away from a particular problem (and, instead, looking at the environment around it) can lead to better solutions.