What is it to observe something? How do we observe a person, place or thing? Is it with just our eyes? As artists what roll does observation play for you? What makes your subject of observation interesting to you? Do we affect something by observing it? Does it affect us? Is observation biased? Can it be empirical? What do you observe? Actions, details, the look of something, the smell, the mood? What are you looking at when you observe something? When you observe something is there a particular thing or quality you are looking for? What is the difference between observation and spying? Is it intrusive? How does your observation morph as you make your artwork?

Ask yourself these questions as you go out to observe. You are to take notes on your observations but not make drawings. Try to stay in a location or with your subject for a while. Take time with your observations. After an hour, return to the studio and begin to make sketches, add to your notes or start a work.

Timeframe: For this project you will have two class sessions to develop this work. This project will dovetail into ASPECT TWO – PLACE. Which you will be critiqued on.

Goal: The purpose of this exercise is to help you train yourself to make observations so they better serve your artwork and yourself. It will help you determine your interests and deepen your relationship to your subject matter. It will also force and help you create a language for yourself regarding your visual observations.

Videos of some artists using observation at the heart of their work although in with different objectives in mind.
Antonio Lopez Garcia – adheres to strict observation of a person, place or object. He often works on paintings for years because the light is only good for a hour or two in the location he is painting. Or as captured in the film “El Sol del Membrillo” the fruit he is observing for a painting continues to grow and the seasons change before he can finish the painting.

Liu Xiaodong – Not only engaging in painting a subject Liu Xiaodong interjects himself into the lives of his subjects, creating a film along with his paintings. Often tackling difficult social politics and searching for common humanity. As in these videos below where in the summer of 2009, Liu Xiaodong traveled to Yan’ Guan County in Gansu Province, China, where he sought to depict the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Christians, focusing on two families.

Sophie Calle – Not a painter but an amazing artist and a very aware observer of herself and others.

The Observer Effect –  In physics, the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on the phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A commonplace example is checking the pressure in an automobile tire; this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure. This effect can be observed in many domains of physics.

Jane Goodall – Naturalistic Observation is a research tool in which a subject is observed in its natural habitat without any manipulation by the observer. Observation as activism.



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