“The camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera.”
— Dorothea Lange
I’ve been watching a video of Richard Feynman’s lecture on the laws of physics, and he described the essence of the scientific approach like this: “This is the key of modern science, this is the beginning of the true understanding of nature – this idea that to look at the thing, to record the details and to hope that in the information thus obtained may lie a clue to one or another of a possible theoretical interpretation.”
The ability to observe is of primary importance both in science and in art. Leonardo da Vinci, who was an exceptionally keen observer, is a stunning example of a genius straddling both fields. There is some evidence that he, in fact, made no distinction between the two. Feynman also drew and played drums. He said at the beginning of his lecture at Cornell that somehow physicists and mathematicians always mentioned his artistic interests, but when he played drums at a club, no-one ever said that he was also a theoretical physicist. He attributed it to higher appreciation of arts compared to science.
The good thing is that the capacity for observation is a trainable skill. One exercise for developing it is to take photos of various random objects throughout the day. The idea is that the mere act of looking for subjects to take pictures of encourages us to be more tuned to our surroundings. I’ve decided to put to to practice and snapped a picture of a tree with multiple trunks as I was walking across campus yesterday. Then, I thought that it would be even better to turn it into a sketch. Here is the result – made on an iPad in ProCreate with an Apple Pencil.