Observing

Image from Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chardin_pastel_selfportrait.jpg

I had a great book find a couple of weeks ago.

I discovered Alain de Botton‘s (1997) explanation of How Prost can change YOUR LIFE.

In it Alain has a chapter titled ‘How to Open Your Eyes’. He outlines how Proust regarded Jean-Baptise Chardin. Proust writes of his own essay on the painter:

In this study, I use the work of Chardin as an example, and I try to show its influence on our life, the charm and wisdom with which it coats our most modest moments by initiating us into the life of still life.

I liked Alain’s suggestion in following up on Proust’s account:

Great painters possess such power to open our eyes because of the unusual receptivity of their own eyes to aspects of visual experience …

This receptivity raises fundamental issues for all of us as to how we observe and sense the world around us. Interestingly, we all have a sense of the world that can be revealed by involuntary triggers … a smell, a fabric, a sound …

but if we get a whiff of a long-forgotten small we are suddenly intoxicated, and similarly we think we no longer love the dead, because we don’t remember them, but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.

Perhaps I was primed for this chapter after watching with my wife, Sue, the current SBS series The Impressionists presented by Waldemar Januszczak. In all three programs to date, the importance attached to observation has been at the forefront of discussions.

Photo by Margaret Zayer, http://www.lamaisondupastel.com/product.php
Photo by Margaret Zayer, http://www.lamaisondupastel.com/product.php

One delightful outcome of this week’s program (Painting the People) was to be introduced to the shop where Degas bought his pastels, La Maison du Pastel. I like this description of the Roché pastels:

At its height in the 1970s, the entire range of Roché pastels exceeded 1800 colours. Today, you will find an evolving and expanding collection of 650 colours, divided into ranges of nine gradations. Each range is composed of pure colours that are either gradated with white, black, or crossed with another colour.

Manufactured in small quantities, Roché pastels are individually hand-rolled into a form suitable for both bold and detailed work. With exceptionally lightfast pigments and a minimum of binder, the pastels possess a particular texture that allows them to adhere well to a number of supports, as well as display a remarkable intensity and clarity of color.

A limited range of half sticks, the Petits Roché, is available for those who are looking to try Roché pastels, but don’t know where to begin. 54 colours are represented in theme sets of 3, 12, and soon to be 36. They possess all of the qualities of the full sticks, minus the label.

Seeing the pastels sent me offer on another thought journey … how to be sufficiently good at observation and artistic expression to optimise the incredibly rich colours of the pastels. I liked the idea that there were Petits Roché to give a start.

Perhaps there is something here for new and experienced teachers and coaches.

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