May 29, 2012

Looking and Seeing

Each spring and summer I return to many of the same farms to gather images for the upcoming year's painting. Each year I look at the many of the same machines, but see them differently. From the online dictionary:
look: direct one's gaze toward someone or something or in a specified direction.
see: perceive with the eyes; discern visually
Seeing involves a more active participation of the mind. Casually looking over at this John Deere tractor, I didn't think there would be anything to engage my interest.

When I walked up close to the tractor and looked more intently I began to see, almost as though I was on a treasure hunt, searching for gems hidden in plain sight, something that took more effort than a casual look. I am fascinated by this process as each year I seem to be a bystander in my eye's work; I never know what kinds of things I will find.

Because I have been painting details, seen simply and closeup, one machine can yield many different images, as the two above.

Another machine I looked at, a manure spreader, drew me because of its color and large gear wheels.

Sure enough, I think I may have found an interesting idea here.

I have clear evidence that I am seeing differently from one year to the next. This machine looked familiar, then I recognized a motif that I used last year:

The curious thing is that this grouping of pipes, though exciting to me last year, meant nothing to me yesterday. They no longer provided an "ah-hah!" moment, a compelling sense of pleasure.

Instead, I found this

and this. There are other adjustments in store: as I printed these images this morning, I made them larger than I would have last year, though still small; I felt that they needed more breathing room. Each year there are changes in my motifs, slight but real, which keep me on my toes, and happy.


  1. seeing differently for sure but the conversation changes also....that's how it feels to me!

    1. I agree completely. The conversation between my eye and the world and between me and my painting in the studio definitely changes over time.

    2. Looking forward to following your transformative process. Yes, we can see how the artist changes as we watch the shifts in focus. Really like your photos. Too much sunlight for Siskind, but see influences. This last image with white, a new frontier for you?

    3. Thank, Julie. I almost didn't post that last image, because it felt so uncomfortable to me; so yes, a new frontier that I want to push towards.

  2. I am excited to find another lover of machines in Vermont! You may see why if you check of some of my photographs here:

    1. Nice Claire! aren't machines terrific.