The Laws of Nature

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Looking at Life with the Eyes of a Child

Matisse on Art
Jack Flam, Ed.

Now that I’m living in the world of “dial-up” it’s a little harder for me to access and navigate the internet. Therefore, I must apologize to all of you whose blog sites I regularly visit for not stopping by more often. I’ll get to you as soon as I can!

Tucked away on one of my bookshelves here in Maine, I found Matisse on Art . which contains some interesting ideas. Essentially, this book is a compilation of Matisse’s essays on art including one he wrote in 1953 entitled “Looking at Life with the Eyes of a Child.”

For the artist creation begins with vision. To see is itself a creative operation which requires effort. Everything that we see in our daily life is more or less distorted acquired habits, and this is perhaps more evident in an age like ours when cinema posters and magazines present us every day with a flood of ready-made images which are to the eye what prejudices are to the mind.

The effort needed to see things without distortion demands a kind of courage; and this courage is essential to the artist, who has to look at everything as though he were seeing it for the first time: he has to look at life as he did when he was a child and, if he loses that faculty, he cannot express himself in an original, that is, a personal way.

This is an interesting concept. Children are usually uninhibited. They question everything and try to make sense of it within the context of who they are. In essence, they create a fantasy reality because they haven't yet experienced the hard realities of adulthood. But, how do we revert to that stage? How do we forget about assigned meanings and context? How do we develop "fresh eyes"? Frankly, I don't know if I can or even if I should. I paint from the heart of who I am now. I'm no longer a child and my thoughts are more sophisticated. I have a larger view of the world. I'll ponder this some more.

What are your thoughts?


Casey Klahn said...

Although I've never seen a Matisse, I did finish the great 2 volume biography that Hilary Spurling created a few years ago. Writing this was a monumental undertaking, and unusual in that the old boy had not been biographed until now.

So, I am fascinated by the volume you have - which I have heard about. Up front, I am an acolyte from afar of HM.

I never bought any of the words about child-likeness in one's art making - until I had children whose artistic abilities are plainly evident. It is a miracle, and fascinating to see. My son has an abstract inclination that is marvelous, and my daughter sees herself as an artist, and is in an art-heavy classroom at her 1st-2nde grade combo class.

I fully like what he says @ visual prejudices, BTW. Can innocence overcome our visual prejudices? I have to say I'm a witness of that at home.

hwfarber said...

I think we can see like a child. When it comes to painting, though, we want to show what we've learned. Simple does requires courage--and I often miss.

Celeste Bergin said...

I know what you mean, Kathy, if we were to truly see like a child our work would be child-like..and aren't there already enough children currently making art? we need to add to that? haha. Well, I understand the premise and concept. Once I did an exercise like that (seeing as a child) the results were very pretty and appealing. But I just can't continually "be a child" It seems redundant. lol.
My "child" painting:

PAMO said...

Seems to me that seeing and experiencing life around you "as a child" doesn't mean you will do art as a child. To me, it means that you will be open to experiencing the stimuli in your world without preconception.
I'm not sure that's really possible for me- but I try and it does expand my sense of "art".
I think there is a difference between aesthetic and openness. They are not interdependent- or at least shouldn't be.

Joyfulartist said...

To me, seeing as a child is seeing everything as though you have never seen it before. It's fresh, new, full of wonder and astonishment. I wish that these 68 year old eyes could see with that kind of freshness!

Carolina Moon Arts Studio said...

Hi Kathy, for me seeing like a child means simplfying.
Children only see the bigger picture and don't dwell on the details. If i get frustrated i remind myself to "see simple" and then i can solve my dilemma which was probably due to getting too complicated. Does this make sense?

Dan Kent said...

I'm with Pamo (again) and Joyfulartist. I draw best when I don't concentrate on what I think the subject should be, and instead allow myself to draw what I actually see, as though for the very first time.

Kathy, I love the Matisse picture you chose - childlike sure, but the subject matter looks adult to me!

Stan Kurth said...

Children don't plan a lot, they get right to it. They don't worry about the rules of art, but they don't intentionally break any either. I cannot paint like a child now, I have progressed for many years. I cannot see as a child, because I have defined a vast world and have many opinions about it. I recently explored my childhood art by drawing and painting some of the same subject matter that interested me in those years. It was fun, but not as much as it was then; just too much adult spin on it. My fascination with the landfill as a child has lead me to new explorations: life and death cycles, history, archeology, decomposition, ecology, etc., etc., etc. As a child I saw no metaphor in the dump. Now I know that everything is destined for the landfill. Everything, even that archival material we spend so much on to make our work last longer. "Everything is on its way to somewhere else."

"When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I put away childish things." 1 Corinthians 13:11

Kathy said...

Hi ALL - great comments!! Lots of gems and more to think about. Thank you!

-Don said...

At this stage in my life it's really hard for me to see like a child or think like a child, but my wife keeps reminding me that I still act like a child...

Great post, Kathy... and wonderful comments. I really didn't have anything profound to add, so I fell back on my childish humor...


Kathy said...

Hi Don - I'm glad you did!