In a world where things move faster than ever, and with instant gratification marketed to us constantly, we never take time to simply contemplate. Everything competes for our ever shrinking attention span.
Harvard University art history professor Jennifer Roberts, gave a talk last year at a teaching conference that created quite a lot of buzz. She talked of the need to teach the value of patience in today's world. By patience, she meant close looking and deep thinking for an extended time in order to make connections and observations that do not lie on the surface of things. For her own class, each student must complete a research paper on a single art object which must first be observed, in person, for three hours of uninterrupted time, with no computer, no cell phone, no nothing. Looking and taking notes only. She's found the assignment to be incredibly successful and enlightening for her students. From a time period that she intentionally sets as daunting, students learn by experience, the difference between seeing and looking. She points out that "access is not synonymous with learning" We can find anything instantly online, but when we look only for an instant, we don't learn much. She goes on to say "What turns access into learning is time and strategic patience."
For me, drawing is the time when I stop and look. My sessions are usually a couple of hours (although not always). They are a break from the crazy pace of life. I never draw with a smartphone or even an ipod.
Actually, the way I ordinarily work is quickly, then slowly and then quickly again. Or, to put it another way, it's sketch, then render, then sketch again. My first intent to to finish an impression of the scene, complete with honest mistakes. and it is the foundation of everything. It's a sketch in the sense that sketching is often defined as quick and hasty. That's followed by slow, close observational rendering which helps me to match the inspiration before me...to "capture" the essentials that drew me to the spot. Then, I finish up with dashes of spontaneous marks which aim to revive a potentially over-worked image. Let me tell you, details can ruin a perfectly good drawing! My work my have embellishment, but it is not meant to be perfect at all. To the contrary, it's meant to look personal.
Slowness may be affording me the time to make a praiseworthy image, but more importantly, it's offering me a chance to stop, look and listen: a rare experience for us all.