Robert Henri continues…of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes—no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the calls of interests. He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook, a box of oils with a few small panels, the fit of his pocket, or on his drawing pad. Like any hunter he hits or misses. He is looking for what he loves, he tries to capture it. It’s found anywhere, everywhere. Those who are not hunters do not see these things. The hunter is learning to see and to understand—to enjoy.
Is life moving at such a pace that we don’t have time for sketch hunting? I do this with a camera, but it’s not the same! Recently I’m back to writing in my journal with pen & ink. My fountain pen doesn’t like this cheap paper, and I don’t like cheap plastic pens. Provided that I don’t tip the bottle of ink over myself, this is quite nice. I like the scritch-scratch of the sharp nib and its fine line. I mention this because, every 10 words or so, I need to re-dip, and that’s going to add up to a lot of lost time, in a modern manner of speaking.
Hang on, isn’t that really my point; that most of us are in the habit of racing from place to place without stopping to look for what we love? Instead, we’ll race to work, try to get it all done, which it never is, because we can’t keep up with machines that never sleep, and then when we finally have a minute, the thrill is gone. I can’t remember what it was that inspired me in the first place, and I’m too tired to bother retracing my steps. If you’re not with the one you love, you’ll love the one you’re with, right? What’s on the menu tonight? What’s on TV at the moment? That’s a cute outfit, although it wasn’t what I wanted, I’ll buy it anyway. I need a date, who’s available? If we’ve not already taken the time to know what matters, then nothing does.
Those who take the time—make the time—know what’s worth their time.
Henri Matisse said, “Creation is the artist’s true function. But it would be a mistake to ascribe creative power to an inborn talent. Creation begins with vision. The artist has to look at everything as though seeing for the first time.” I would rephrase that to:
Creation is the true province of mankind. Yet our humanity deprives us of any creative power due to natural talent. Creation is born of vision, therefore the creator must learn to look at everything as though seeing for the first time.
There are memories of days of this sort, of wonderful drifting in and out of the crowd, of seeing and thinking. Where are the sketches that were made? Some of them are in dusty piles, some turned out to be so good they got frames, some became motives for big pictures, which were either better or worse than the sketches, but they, or rather the states of being and understandings we had at the time of doing them all, are sifting through and leaving their impress on our whole work and life.
Or there ought to be. Try working 2 hours into your schedule to sit and observe. You don’t need to draw if you don’t want to master that skill. Create your own method of recording what you what you notice. Make a treasure hunt for things that you love. Fill a journal with your images and notes. Build your own Love List.