This post is another in my series about the work of art and what it takes to make something. Last week I talked about the importance of trying, which I believe is foundational to the creative process. Today's post is about noticing, which I believe is foundational to the process of becoming an artist. It's easy to get confused about what makes someone an artist. I would wager that many people would define an artist as someone who is really good at ______ (drawing, painting, writing, etc). Indeed, those skills are essential, but in my opinion, they aren't the only traits that make someone an artist. An artist must be someone who is also really good at seeing

How cool is this thing?!

How cool is this thing?!

There's an author named Frederick Buechner who has written about this subject much more eloquently than I ever could (you can find his piece on it here). This quote sums his thoughts up nicely:

"The frame does not change the moment, but it changes our way of perceiving the moment. It makes us notice the moment."  

An artist puts a frame around what she notices, so that we, too, might notice it. For example, in Andrew Wyeth's gorgeous painting "Wind from the Sea," he helps us see the ocean breeze as it blows the delicate curtains through the open window. Because he noticed the beauty in that moment, we get to see it, too. 

Seriously, so incredible. 

Seriously, so incredible. 

Wyeth's masterful skill at painting is what allowed him to share that moment with us so exquisitely, and he undoubtedly invested hours upon hours of time into his craft in order to cultivate that skill. However, without the ability to see the beauty of that moment in the first place, his painting skills would be of no use. Both the hands and the eyes have to be trained in the process of becoming an artist. (For more examples of Wyeth's work, visit: 

So, how do you do that? How do you train your eyes? Well, I can only speak from my personal experience, but here are a few of the things I do to become a better "noticer." 

  • Go on walks
  • Eat outside or by a window
  • Slow down
  • Sit on a bench and watch
  • Plant a garden
  • Take pictures
Ha, I just noticed the minuscule ants crawling on the bottom leaf!

Ha, I just noticed the minuscule ants crawling on the bottom leaf!

At the very least, even if you have no interest in becoming an artist, I think developing the ability to notice beauty in little every day moments simply makes life more enjoyable! 

If you are in the process of becoming an artist, or hope to be, I would recommend finding your own way to document the discoveries you start to notice. Keeping a sketchbook, or of course, taking photos, are two great ways to start. And just like anything else, the more intentional you are about noticing, the more you start to notice. :)

Happy noticing!