Artists: Be Here Now…or face this Duchman’s wrath

van gogh

Apparently I have the attention span of a month-old shih tzu. Despite making a pledge to be more present,  I only managed to reign my mind in to the moment for all  of about 37 seconds over the course of two weeks.

Pathetic, I know. And yet despite its brevity, I did manage to get something out of the experience—and that is a reminder of the power of observation.  Forcing myself to focus on the world around me, made me notice things I don’t normally. Like the way the ground I was riding on looked like a sucked-on jawbreaker. Or the lingering taste of coffee in my mouth. The cold wetness pressing against my cheeks. It all made me think of a Van Gogh quote I read the other day in Brenda’ Uelands book on writing.

“When I see young painters come and draw from memory , and then haphazardly smear on whatever they like also from memory, –then keep it at a distance and put on a very mysterious, gloomy face to find out what in Heaven’s name it may look like, and at last and finally make something from it, always from memory—it sometimes disgusts me (p20-21).”

Master-painter snobbery aside, I think part of what Van Gogh was trying to get across was the importance of observing reality, and creating art directly from that reality–in other words, taking those real sensate details and impressions and using them in a manuscript. Of course I will probably need to write them down somewhere, considering the limited capacity of my little dog brain. So here goes, my next challenge is to bring a notebook with me for the next two weeks and jot down one description, detail, of bit of dialogue, from the world around me per day.

4 thoughts on “Artists: Be Here Now…or face this Duchman’s wrath

  1. That’s an excellent idea! I already carry a notebook, but I may have to steal the “one observation per day” thing from you.

    As for those real-life sensate details, in my opinion no writer does it better than Anthony Doerr. His short fiction is seriously, just… I don’t even have words for it. He’s also a travel writer and a science writer for the Boston Globe, so I guess sensory details are part of his job description.

    1. Glad to be of help, and thanks for the recommendation. I will have to take a look for Doerr’s work the next time I’m at the library!

  2. may your efforts bring about joy! perhaps in time your methodology will be to pay infinite attention to the body, starting with the breath. then later the feelings, then the thoughts. success!

    1. Yes, I will indeed have to start paying more attention to my breath, that was always the part of yoga I was terrible at…and the stretching part…Thanks for the reminder!

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