5 SIMPLE SLOW LOOKING ACTIVITIES FOR SUMMER

SUMMARY

Today I’m sharing 5 simple slow looking ideas for the summer.
In our fast-paced society, we scan, we skim and we scroll. We have forgotten what it’s like to really look at something.
Slow looking is a wonderful alternative to life in the fast lane. The 5 activities I’ll be sharing here are simple, effective ways to slow down, improve your observational skills and focus and notice more details around you. 
You can use these slow looking activities throughout the summer – either on your own or with friends and family and children. All of the activities are designed to help you develop your ability to see – and in doing so, spark creativity, curiosity and improve focus.
By the end of this episode you’ll have a range of great ideas to keep yourself and others engaged in slow looking in a range of different environments (outside and inside), some involve art and some do not. All are designed to help improve your observation skills, help you to slow down and to have a wonderful time this summer.
Which activity are you going to try? I’d love to hear how you get on with any of this activities, Please share your thoughts, photos, sketches and or notes via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter using the hashtag #summerslowlooking

INTRODUCTION 

In our fast-paced society, we scan, we skim and we scroll. We have forgotten what it’s like to really look at something.
A 2019 published study from researchers at the Technical University of Denmark suggests the collective global attention span is narrowing due to the amount of information that is presented to the public.
The study shows that people now have more things to focus on – but often focus on things for short periods of time.
We apparently now check our phones every 12 minutes, often just after waking up.
“Always-on” behaviour is about being in a constant state of alertness scanning, skimming and scrolling the world without giving our full focus to anything.
Slow looking is a wonderful alternative to life in the fast lane. The 5 activities I’ll be sharing here are simple, effective ways to slow down, improve your observational skills and focus and notice more details around you.
You can use these slow looking activities throughout the summer – either on your own or with friends and family and children. All of the activities are designed to help you develop your ability to see – and in doing so, spark creativity, curiosity and improve focus.
By the end of this episode you’ll have a range of great ideas to keep yourself and others engaged in slow looking in a range of different environments (outside and inside, some involve art and some do not. All are designed to help improve your observation skills, help you to slow down and to have a wonderful time this summer.
Let’s get started! And don’t forget to share what you get up to on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #summerslowlooking

1.TAKE A COLOUR WALK

This is one of my favourite activities to do at any time of year, let alone in summer time when nature is really doing some amazing things! The idea for this is simple – as you step outside of the door, choose a colour to first focus on.
Where do you first notice that colour?
Where else does it appear?
Then, think about how your colour contributes to the mood or atmosphere of where you’re walking.
How would it feel or look without your colour?
As you continue your walk, what other colours do you notice? Are there any unexpected colours?
Check in with yourself at the end of the walk – what was special about taking a colour walk? What new things did you see?

2.TAKE A FOCUS WALK

The second suggestion is to take another walk but this time, stop at a point and focus on a single point.
This type of walk is great when you’re on holiday or discovering new areas, especially areas with panoramic views.
When you’ve reached a point where you’d like to stop. Stand or sit for 5 minutes.
Take time to notice what you see.
You can also choose to find ONE THING to focus on for a full minute or to survey the whole scene in front of you.
Note changes, movement, the effect of the light or the weather, noise, smells.
You can choose to ‘tell yourself’ what you see, or write it down in a notebook. You can even sketch what you see from your spot or just sketch the scene in your head.
Spending time with one view forces you to look beyond the obvious.
Even if you’re doing this type of walk in a very familiar area, stopping and looking at a single point allows you to see something that’s familiar with fresh eyes. Over time, we tend to fall asleep to our neighbourhoods – the unfamiliar becomes familiar. Choosing one of the a focused walk options will help you to wake up and notice again

3.IGNORE THE LABEL

This third activity can take place in a museum, gallery or any kind of heritage centre. You can do this inside or outside (there are plenty of outdoor sculpture exhibitions in the summer months).
Learning to look slowly requires a small amount of effort and patience and it’s always tempting to sneak a look at the wall label and then move on.
This exercise will help you to feel more comfortable spending time with an object or artwork.
First, find a comfy spot. Positioning is important. ⁠If you’re in a museum, a place with a bench in front of an artwork is great. If you’re with others, you can each choose your own artwork or you can look at the same one together.
Then, decide how long you are going to look for – at least 2 minutes and a maximum of 5. Make a resolution and set a timer, if necessary. ⁠
✭ 1st Minute: Spend some time looking at the object in front of you. Here we are giving looking time and allowing the eye to do its work. Tell yourself when you notice interesting features. Label or underline parts in the image. Or say it aloud. ⁠
✭ 2nd Minute: Now you may find some questions emerging. Just let the questions emerge in your head. ⁠Or if you’re in a group, share your questions with each other.
✭ 3-5 Minutes: Keep looking. Keep telling yourself or sharing with others when you notice interesting features. You can label them in your head or make notes too. If the flow stops, close your eyes or look away and back again. This will refresh the eyes. ⁠
Many insights will come late. So, do keep looking. Above all, enjoy this experience as you get to know your way around an object.
Afterwards, reflect on the experience either individually or with the people you’re with. How was the exercise for you? What did you discover – about yourself and the object or artwork? ⁠

4.SLOW SKETCHING

This fourth activity can be done at home with an everyday or treasured object or you can do this activity in front of an object in a museum or gallery.
If you’re working at home, lay the object on a surface in front of you.
It’s important to remind yourself and others who are doing this activity that it is an observation activity and not a technical drawing exercise. It’s not about your drawing skills! I love doing sketching activities but I wouldn’t consider myself an artist. I do this activity to notice details and focus.
And you don’t have to share the finished drawing with anyone if you don’t want to!
Drawing & sketching slows you down. You’re taking the time to look at something and really observe it. The more you practice observational drawing, the more you’ll see.

So, first sketch the object from your vantage point. Remember this is about observation, not drawing skills.

If you’re working with an object at home, pick it up the object and move it around.
If you’re looking at it in a museum, think about where you can see different parts and what the purposes of those parts may be. What are its parts? What are its various pieces or components? Label the parts and purposes on your drawing.
Then consider, in what ways could this object be made more beautiful. Jot down your thoughts on paper.
If you’re doing this activity in a group, you can then share you sketches if you’re all happy to do so are all happy to do so and talk about ways you thought you would make your object more BEAUTIFUL.

5. HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH AN ARTWORK

I’ve cheated here because there are actually 7 different slow looking art activities in this section that can be done with any artwork anywhere – in a gallery, museum, in your home or online.
Try not to be distracted by any art historical or factual information you may see. Remember the focus is on looking, letting questions emerge and continuing to look.
The longer you look, the more insights will come to you.
With all of these activities, spend time looking at your chosen image for 1-2 minutes first. Let your eyes wander over it freely.
What do you see? Make a few observations and then move on to your chosen activity – pick one or several from the list below:.

i.Look for categories

Looking for categories involves looking for certain type of things. This can act as a lens to focus our perception and filter the amount of visual stimuli flooding the eyes. For this activity, we’re going to look for colours, shapes and lines. You can look for all of these categories or focus on just one, like colour for example.
Start by looking at the image or object for a couple of minutes. Then start to look specifically for colours. 
  • What colours do you see? Describe them
  • Then look for shapes. What shapes do you see? Describe them
  • And finally, what lines do you see? Describe them
Then:
  • Choose ONE colour, shape, or line that you listed. Think about:
  • How does it contribute to the artwork overall?
  • How does it help the artwork “work?”
  • What would the artwork be like without your colour, shape or line? 

ii.Look for stories

Look for an artwork or object that seems to tell a story, if it’s an artwork, look for one that shares a scene, a moment in time or one that has a particularly strong theme. After some time spent looking, ask yourself:
‘What’s the main story being told here?’
If you’re with a group, discuss ideas together. Think about the big idea, the focus or the theme. This is your main story.
Then, think about what else is going on here:
What is the side story (or stories) happening on the sidelines or around the edges?
Finally, consider the hidden or untold story. This is speculative in nature.
Think about:
What might be obscured or left out intentionally or unintentionally? What might be going on here that we are not seeing directly?
As a final question, think about what you would ask the artist if you had the chance?

iii.Create stories

Find an artwork with an element of mystery, perhaps something that might be telling a story or captures a moment in time.
Ask yourself or the group, if this artwork is the beginning of the story, what might happen next?
If this artwork is the end of the story, what led up to this point? You can create imaginative stories in small groups and share them when you’re ready, even acting out the various characters. 

iv.Look for surprises!

After a couple of minutes of looking at the image, think about what surprises you in the artwork.
Is there a startling colour, an unexpected relationship, an odd object.
Where and how does the work surprise you? Does it surprise you in big ways or little ways?
Make notes. Then, if you’re in a group, share one thing with the others.
Finally, think about why the artist did that? Was there a message? How does that ‘surprise’ fit into the whole work?

v.Find something interesting

Find something that interests you in the artwork. Where is your eye drawn? Does it keep returning to a particular part of the image or object. What do you find interesting here?
It might be a sense of movement or an emotion or a colour or something else.
Name what you chose and ask yourself – how does it contribute to the work as a whole? What role does it play? What would this artwork be like without this interesting part?

vi.Look for what’s hiding

Try looking for what might be hiding in the artwork.
In your head, remove a colour or a figure in the artwork.
Use your thumb or hand to mask out the objects and explore how this changes the work’s impact.
What would it be like if it wasn’t there? What would it be like if it was a different colour?

vii.Choose a title

After some time spent looking and wondering, review the work as a whole and see what conclusions you can make.
What title would you give this artwork?
Then check the actual title. Which do you prefer – yours or the artist’s?
So I’ve covered 5 simple  slow looking activities that you can do this summer to improve your observation skills, slow down and most importantly have some fun.
We covered:
  • A Colour Walk
  • A Focus Walk
  • Ignoring the label
  • Slow Sketching
  • Having a conversation with an artwork – looking for categories, looking for and creating stories, looking for surprises, finding something interesting, looking for what’s hiding and choosing a title.
Which activity are you going to try? I’d love to hear how you get on with any of this activities, Please share your thoughts, photos, sketches and or notes via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter using the hashtag #summerslowlooking