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Seeing may be the trickiest part of drawing

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Instinct and childhood definitions make poor interpreters of everyday life

Take this dumb sketch (Exhibit A). I made it while sitting in the lobby at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. Those green trees? Utter fiction. Apart from a few pine trees, there is very little green in Minnesota right now. Green won’t even think about appearing for weeks.

PeopleCTC-03202015

Exhibit A

Yet here we have green trees. I threw a dash of green there because trees are green. Except they weren’t green. They were brown. And scratchy and barren-looking. I commented to a drawing friend that my instinct said “green” from long use of my childhood definition of “tree.” And that slap of green was on before I even thought about it.

The gap between seeing and responding is the troublesome bit. If instinct drives my seeing, I miss pylons and electrical wires and gasoline tank farms and wireless telephone towers. All that industrial accretion I’ve seen one million times—all of it invisible. Even though it is really odd-looking stuff, jutting up into the sky at bizarre angles, like nothing in nature.

I don’t see people too: the clerk behind the counter. The janitor with the broom there, off to the side. I try to become practiced at not seeing the homeless man with his cardboard blessing at the end of the ramp. But that never works.

Mrs. Kirkistan and I volunteer at the Children’s Theater Company. It is simple duty: handing out programs. I was surprised this time by how invisible I became to children. Despite being squarely in their way so they must actively move around me to get into the theater. And when I verbally offer them a program, they twitch, suddenly surprised to see a human directly in front of them.

It’s not that I’m diminutive (I’m not). It’s because the entrance to the theater is awesome, like nothing a kid sees anywhere else. Walking through those double-doors into the dark red cavern with hundreds of seats stretching down and up into space and very strange objects akimbo on the stage—it’s hard for anyone to look away. All of that is purposeful on the part of the theater and adds to the experience.

It’s odd being invisible. And that makes me wonder how many people I miss in the course of ordinary life, simply because I have acted on instinct rather than actually believing the data from my eyes.

Instinct and childhood definitions are poor interpreters of everyday life.

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Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

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