Close observation is about details. It’s about finding the little things about an object or a piece that make it unique. Often times these small details are what helps a person relate to a piece, so when you take the time to really look at something closely, and observe it, you can discover many things, about yourself and how you look at art objectively and also about the artist and the way they design things.
The way that observation works is different for everyone, but for artists this comes out through in their artwork. The impressionists look at things very differently than the surrealists do, or the pointalists or the natrualists. It all depends on what an artist is looking for, and how they observe an environment, and what they want to do to that environment. Close observation is really about what you want to acheive, and for an observer, how invested you are in learning about a piece of art. When I stand in front of a Van Gogh it takes me ages to look at it, because I love to look at the way he uses paint, and how, years after his death, you can tell what brushstrokes he used, and what parts of the painting were really important to him because of how much paint is being used. In this way, I can observe what he was observing, and how it made him want to paint. And that is something beautiful.
When I observe a piece, I like to stand back from it, observe the whole thing look at what the artist was looking at, and why they found that subject so fascinating. Then after making conclusions about that, or enjoying it and just letting it be what it is, I like to move in close, look at all the smaller details of a piece. It’s in this method of observation I’ve found that leaving pieces of canvas blank is something that can work and make a piece look whole on the outside, even when more closely observed it seems as if pieces are missing. I like to look for brushstrokes, and at the frame the piece is in (if it has a frame). Even details like that are important, because if the frame is original, it can also portray what an artist wanted. I then step back again, and take the entire peice in again. Because then I understand all the elements that went into it. With sculptures it is generally very similar, except I am looking for building aspects and not paint strokes.
Change blindness can hinder the observation process. When looking for something specific we, as humans, tend to block out other things, that could be incredibly important for our cognition and recognition in life, and within an art peice. Once someone is made aware of change blindness it is easier to recognize when it can be taking place. Instead of focusing on just one thing it becomes easier to take everything else in.
Through observation we develope our minds. We are constantly taking things in, but we can change the way we observe. This can make us stronger, smarter, and in cities, more street-wise. Observation teaches us many things, in art we can learn a lot about a person and about the environment that they were looking at. Observation is a teacher, and the more we learn to delve into our observations the more we can learn from them. Deep observation is extremely important because it makes our minds work in comepletely different ways.
How we react is incredibly dependent on what it is that we are observing. I am more likely to let my emotions show when I’m looking at a piece of art than I am with another person, depending on who they are. With other people we tend to limit our reactions so as not to hurt them or let ourselves get hurt. With pets we tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves, and everyone kind of knows how that relationship works. With other things we are a little more secretive. Inanimate objects can have a very emotional bond, which we tend not to observe until we think we have lost them. So how we react completely depends on what we are looking at, and our emotional attachement to that thing or creature.
I think when I’m looking at a place I tend to have the same kind of feeling and experiences as looking at a piece of art. Although it may be a little bit backwards. I’m someone who likes to go exploring. Camping, backpacking, hiking, biking, I love to do all of these things, and that impacts the way that I look at the environment. I think I really start by looking at the smaller things in nature first, because it take a lot of effort to get to a place where you can observe a valley or a mountain range in all its glory. So my approach really gets swapped. Details matter first in nature, and then you can really look at an appreciate the bigger picture.