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Thoughts from Frederick Franck, author of the classic The Zen of Seeing

Learning to draw is…

– an intensifier of firsthand seeing, as a catalyst of awareness that makes us independent of our serfdom to technology.

– being reminded again and again of what we somehow know, but constantly forget

– reconnecting with what we observe, and thereby reconnecting with ourselves

– having no pretensions

– seeing what is in front of you for the first time

– undoing the year-long aesthetic alienation brought about by education…

– regaining a sense of simplicity


The world in the tip of a pencil

There is a moment when the walking stops, and the walker chooses to make a drawing. Something catches the eye, and the hand is eager to catch the line. The feet stop, and the mind seem to stop as well. A moment dedicated to looking, over and over again, touching trees and hills and ants with the tip of the pencil, extending gradually over the page. For a moment there is neither path nor destination, just a present moment at this tiny tip where the observer and the observed come together. A real experience, full of choices.

Walking, drawing, looking, hearing, feeling

sintrawalking02Slow Mile was out and about in Sintra and in spite of the anounced rain we had sunshine during most of the day. We had a great group of ten people with us and everybody responded to our exercices with interest and energy. As you can see from the drawings they made, we focused on different ways of using line in order to give expression to trees, their surface and grotwth structure. We also did little quick perspective sketches in the town, and yes, we did pop in for some pastry.

Sintra Sketchbook Walk next Sunday 22nd of March.We’re Ready to Go!

sintrawalking1The SlowMile Team has been preparing for the next sketchbook walk and everthing is ready to go!
A very nice group has been forming and we can’t wait to go walking and drawing with everyone.
We’ll be taking advantage of the urban setting of Sintra to look at its lines and forms. The surounding woods will be the perfect scenery for the observation exercises we’ve prepared.
There’s still room for more, so sign up ( and come along with us.

More details on our events page.

Creative Activity – Empathy

From the book The Divine Proportion – a study in mathematical beauty by H. E. Huntley

“[This] deep joy has been thought by some to be the principal aim of education – more, the chief end of human life. In The Education of the Whole Man, L. P. Jacks writes;

What then is the vocation of the whole man? So far as I can make out, his vocation is to be a creator; and if you ask me, Creator of what? I answer – creator of real values…. And if you ask me what motive can be appealed to, what driving power can be relied on, to bring out the creative element in men and women, there is only one answer I can give; but I give it without hesitation–the love of beauty, innate in everybody, but suppressed, smothered, thwarted in most of us….

This inborn love of beauty, our human heritage, must find expression if we are to be happy. If the hunger for beauty remains unsatisfied, the effects are seen in loss of physical and mental health, so deep is the need. We now approach the final stage in the argument of this chapter. It underlines a truth which it is important that all students of mathematics should understand, but (it is to be feared) very few do. If it could be expressed in one word, that word would be empathy. The German equivalent is Einfühlung–feeling into.”


As art teachers (still in the classroom, with the slidesmachine) we always come back to the old masters of our european tradition to exemplify this quality. When the students through their practice start to know that place in themselves, they also recognize it in the artwork, no matter what time or place it comes from. It is not one single thing though, not one specific emotion, it can not be put in a box. The image bearing this quality can itself be violent, or soft, clean and simple, or very rough… But there is always a balance, a presicion to it, that is in the mark itself, the composition, the gesture, both the detail and the whole.

It is a great privilege to keep showing these slides to our students, to have to notice and verbalize   again and again what this quality is. To try and take them into this contact and empathy that we feel and that move us to teach drawing.

Why Walking?

We think of drawing as a way of looking at and connecting with the landscape we move through. Drawing, as walking, are experiences that take their time, and are both activities that provide a greater attention and focus on what is around you at every moment.

“The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through the landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.”

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Blogging on Slow Planet

slowplanetRecently, by invitation of Carl Honore, Bodil started blogging on Slow Planet. We’re sure her example and ideas are a welcome addition to the community. Be sure to keep up with her slow posts.

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