Harness Your Superpower of Observation

Text and drawing by Stephen Fakiyesi Tuesday, March 24, 2020

This may come as a surprise to many reading this blog but we all have superpowers. Superpowers that we can harness if we know how to tap into them. One of those superpowers is the power of observation. And one of the surest ways of harnessing our powers of observation is through the practice of detailed drawing…

Ok, I know you’re probably thinking that’s easy for me to say, ’cause I’m an artist and all. Which is true…though the sad reality is, up until the last two months or so I haven’t drawn or painted an image in about five or six years, a period in my life when I was on a six months artist residency in London England. Technically, I did do some architectural floor plan drawings two years ago back in early 2017 for a house I was renovating in Parkdale just west of downtown Toronto if that counts (a small confession here – the reality of being a visual artist in Toronto or any city in Canada, for that matter, usually involves one or two other side hustles. Those side hustles are better known as full time jobs and part jobs, you get the point).

As a conceptual artist, whose practice is more about ideas that can be articulated in any number of ways not having to do with drawing or painting, my artistic research usually involves reading, lived experiences, and lately digitally documenting myself (or having someone else document me) in a performative act or some other form of activity.

So, sadly I haven’t been in the habit of drawing, as I once was, way back in high school or possibly as an undergrad, that is, up until recently.

What has changed? Well, like a youth who has rediscovered how much fun getting on a bike can be after several years of not biking, I’ve rediscovered how liberating drawing can be and more to the point I’ve discovered how drawing gives us access to a superpower that we can all tap into. And like the act of running or writing, anyone can do it.

Ok, I’m not promising you’ll become the next Davinci or Picasso, but with some practice you’ll not only get better at it, but you’ll also improve your powers of observation, increase your focus and you might even get into a creative zone or flow that will generate creativity in other aspects of your life or career as well…

In short, 15 minutes of unobstructed detailed drawing a day and you can tap into a superpower that you may not have known you had!

Some tips that you might find helpful before beginning:

To create a habit of drawing or a habit of anything else for that matter, mentally link it to an existing habit that you already have, such as consuming your morning news, or brushing your teeth.

Find a private or low traffic space where you can draw without interruption or eyes peering over your shoulders.

15 minutes might seem too short a time, but it’s important to commit to a short duration of time that you know you can accomplish. It can even be less than 15 minutes. The point is to make it easy enough to become a habit.

Prepare the image or the object you are going to draw before hand. I’ve been taking pictures of my face on my cell phone and drawing self portraits.

It’s important to silence your inner critic, you’re not trying to make a “good” drawing, whatever your idea of what a “good” drawing may be. You are just trying to render in as detailed fashion as you can what you see before you. That requires no judgment and lots of concentration.

It’s important to be consistent. I’m not too sure what the percentage is but missing one day of a routine (whichever way you measure your routine, be it daily, every other day, weekly, etc) is not too much of a big deal, but miss a routine twice in a row and your odds of making a habit of it greatly diminishes.

It’s also important that you suspend disbelief. In other words, telling yourself you can’t do something even subliminally is a self-fulfilling prophesy and bound to sabotage any potential for success. So try going into this new routine with an open mind and channel your inner Davinci, Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Jean Michel Basquiat, or whichever artist inspires you.

The following link is a TEDx talk by Stephen Duneier that I believe makes a good case that if you can successfully draw a simple gray square than you have the tools to draw anything at a super high level. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQMbvJNRpLE

Here’s to harnessing our superpower!

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