Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How to gain perspective


Step Back

Perspective is not something we "get." Perspective develops, evolves. The need for perspective indicates a problem that requires a solution.

In my experience, I've learned that whether the problem I'm facing is emotional, technical, creative, or in relationship with another person, I am not going to find a solution by working at it head on, forcing my will, or figuring it out. I am only going to arrive at a solution by allowing myself time and space. Perspective requires time and space.

If you research the history of innovation and discoveries, you'll find that in many cases, if not by accident, they were arrived at while a person was not directly at work on a problem. I'm not talking about proven solutions to particular problems like one plus one equaling two. I'm referring to creative problem solving.

Creative problem solving is broken into four main categories: Mental state shift, Problem reframing, Multiple idea facilitation and by Inducing change of perspective.

So, how do we induce a change of perspective?

1. Step back. It's difficult to see the big picture when you're right on top of it. 
2. Turn away. Engage in a different activity. 
3. Move your body. Go outside for a walk. 
4. Alter your sensation. Take a shower. 
5. Take a nap. "Let me sleep on it" may be the wisest response in many situations.
“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis

Ronn Davis, my most awesome drawing and painting teacher at Santa Monica College, once told us to look at paintings this way: Stand as far as you can from a painting and then move towards it until it "falls apart." Until you can see the marks themselves and not what they compose. It doesn't work with every painting but does with many. Perspective in art work is not just about lines and angles on a surface, it's about the way we look at things.

I do not teach linear perspective. In the reading list for my online course, I recommend a great little book written in the late 30's but it's supplemental reading. Linear perspective is a construct, good for architectural rendering and some conceptual understanding but, in fact, (as Alan Watts once said) the world is wiggly.

I use circles, ellipses and spirals in my teaching method. I find that it helps students understand better how to see and represent form and value in the changing light and motion of the natural world. It's a more feminine approach. Enough already with roads and railroad tracks and skyscrapers.

As a lifelong lover of all things architectural and having spent a good decade of my life doing architectural portraits on commission, I do include a 3-part lesson on drawing and painting houses with watercolor in my full online course and include a lesson on How to Draw a House in my Basic Drawing Book. In fact, you can grab a copy for your very own at the top of the sidebar to your right.

One of the most interesting things about perspective is that it is not constant. Because of light and time, position and the process of becoming, our perspectives are unique to each of us and constantly changing.
“The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.”
― Brooks Atkinson
Do you have sure fire ways to gain perspective? Do tell.

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