Shifting Focus Jul08

Shifting Focus

I will never forget the opening words of my college drawing instructor. “Anyone can draw. What I hope to teach you is how to see.” Perception is something we often take for granted, yet it is pivotal to our everyday lives. When it comes to the arts a picture is only worth a thousand words if there are at least a thousand words that can be said about it. There must be a context into which it is seated. Out of that context, there must be a point of focus for our perception to work at all. To help understand what I mean by this let’s take a moment and understand how the human eye works when it focuses on something in our field of vision. Innately, the eye focuses in on one thing with detail, forcing the rest into peripheral vision. For example, when I look at the cup of collected pens and pencils on my desk I see clearly one pencil and all the rest are suggestive images that I interpret as being there, but I don’t focus on them. If I look at the pen beside the pencil, it becomes the center of focus and the pencil becomes a suggestive object in my peripheral vision. So why do I choose to see the pencil and not the pen? There is no detailed explanation for that which will cover every individual. You might have seen the pen first. What we both have in common was that we saw something of importance, something we chose to focus our attention on. As a rule of thumb you might say that in order to see something we must chose to not see something else; at least clearly. What does this have to do with art?...