Over the past few months as I talk to more and more people about the NatureSketch program, it’s dawned on me that I’ve been following Bob Bateman’s work since in the early 90's. That’s 25 years of learning from Bob through the ideas presented in his books, magazine articles and online essays (check out his brilliant essay Paying Attention to Place)
One lesson that I put into practice and tell drawing students, is to slow down and really pay attention to what’s in front of you. What you’re trying to do, is learn how to see, to really see. Hopefully, what you’ll begin to notice is that everything in nature, from an everyday broken branch to a fallen leaf, has individual qualities that make it unique.
I have a note card I received from Bob back in 2001. It was a few years after graduating from college and I had written to him for advice on some drawings I was working on at the time. He was very kind to respond (some artists are loathe to discuss their working methods with others for fear of "training the competition")
Below are insights he took time to share:
“I have noticed for years that the faces of every lion I have seen are individual. I’ve been to Africa about 15 times & see some repeatedly. The odd time I’ve recognized one on T.V. I feel the same way about the distinctive character of Bald Eagle faces. It may be that every creature, even cockroaches have individual faces. If Zebra stripes & finger prints & snowflakes have all been unique, then it is likely everything in nature is. If humans could only recognize this, perhaps we would treat each individual life in nature with more respect.”
Elsewhere he’s written:
“We need to pay attention to the particularity of the planet. This is not just to save it. Paying attention to nature is a joy in itself and has measurable benefits for a person’s body, mind and spirit. Haiku poetry is all about small details of nature in time and space.”
I consider it time well spent when I’m out investigating old tree stumps or sketching driftwood that’s washed up on the shore.
If this idea is new to you, I suggest unplugging from the Smartphone world and heading outdoors to see the natural world up close. Taking along a small sketchbook would be a good idea too:)
Ps. In the top photo, I’m listening to Bob as he talks about this White Throated Sparrow sketch and shares thoughts about his old ROM mentor, Terry Shortt. Yep, I’m still learning.