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3 slow looking activities for the holidays


For our last episode of the year, I’m sharing 3 slow looking activities for over the holidays.

It’s a busy time of year and we’re all rushed off our feet. There’s also still a huge amount of uncertainty around right now just to add to the levels of stress and anxiety.

Slow looking is a wonderful antidote to life in the fast lane.

Looking at something slowly and carefully is in itself a rewarding process. More than that, slow looking improves your observational skills, helps us to become less distracted and more focused and develop more patience.

Ultimately, slow looking is GOOD FOR THE SOUL.

I recommend choosing one or all of these activities to do at some point over the festive period – it will give you time out, time to slow down and time to notice the wood for the trees.

You can do these activities on your own or with friends and family and children. Each activity should take no more than 10-15 mins. One is based on drawing, one on looking and thinking and one on writing. Choose the one that suits you best or the one that matches how you’re feeling today.

I’d love to hear how you get on with any of this activities, Please share your thoughts, photos, sketches and or notes via Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #winterslowlooking


Now before we get started, I just want to address any ‘I can’t draw’ objections. This exercise is about using drawing as an observational exercise, it’s not a test of how good your drawing skills are.
Furthermore, I’m going to tell you right now that you don’t have to show your drawing to anyone if you don’t want to – and if you’re doing this activity with family or friends, tell them that too.
It is so important to emphasise that this is an observation exercise rather than a technical drawing one. It’s about using the eye and observing carefully rather than producing a polished drawing!
Drawing is a great way to observe something. The act of sketching or drawing something makes you a better observer. Using drawing as a tool for slowing down, for slow looking enriches and enhances what you see.
You can do this exercise alone or with family and friends in the room. If you are doing this with others, you can choose the same object or different objects.
This exercise also works really well on Zoom with family and friends. Just give everyone some time to find a different object. Don’t show your objects until you’ve finished drawing them – then you can go into breakout rooms to discuss your objects and what you noticed!
  • So, for this first exercise you’ll need a pen or pencil and a piece of paper.,
  • Then I’d like you to choose an object that is in your house right now. I’d like you to choose something that is related to the season of winter or the month of December. It can be something festive or it can be something seasonal.
  • Choose anything that is to hand, nearby or in your immediate environment. You can pause this whilst you go and find something.
  • Once you have your object, have a think about this question and jot down your thoughts on a piece of paper. ‘What do you think you know about your object?’ Share some initial thoughts on your piece of paper.
  • Then spend some time looking carefully at your object – first without touching and then picking it up and looking at it from all angles and perspectives. Around 1-2 minutes looking carefully.
  • Then take your piece of paper and fold it into 4 squares. Capture your item 4 times by sketching from different angles. Spend around 5-7 mins on this part or as long as you want.
  • Then ask yourself ‘What new ideas and questions do you have about your item?’ Think about any new ideas or questions you have about your object after spending so much time with it.
  • If you’re with others, spend some time talking about your object after you’ve drawn it and share what you each noticed. Maybe you saw something new in a familiar object? Or noticed new details, colours or textures that you haven’t seen before?
  • Think about how it felt to look and draw for an extended period of time. How many objects do you have in your house that you haven’t really noticed or looked at yet?
  • Try and look at a different object every day and see what you notice.


The second slow looking activity for winter involves just you, an artwork and your thoughts. You can do this online – remember or Google Arts and Culture for searching for artworks or search through the collection of your favourite museum. 
You can do this in a museum too. Look around the galleries until an artwork speaks to you and draws you in. 
  • Choose an artwork that symbolises or shows winter. Choose something figurative with people, objects and stuff in it. Choose something that is detailed and that you can see yourself spending time with. The more details the better! Perhaps choose something that is puzzling or complex. 
  • Then we are going to take an inventory of everything we see in the image. 
  • If you’re doing this alone, you can make a list in your head. If you’re in a group, have a person write down and record everything you mention. Go round in a circle with everyone starting with ‘I see…’ until you have exhausted all the details in the artwork. The aim is to make a list of every single thing you see. 
We do this often when we look at artworks, I like to use the thinking routine Looking Ten Times Two to build up a full inventory of everything we can see in an image. This thinking routine asks us to look twice as we often see beyond the obvious on the second round of looking and notice the more hidden details. 
This exercise is like building up a sense of whole of the artwork. You’re capturing the jumble of features that make the whole. An inventory or list is a BROAD capture of everything we see. It’s different to looking for colours or shapes or lines – which involves looking for certain categories. 
Making an inventory is a great exercise to focus our attention on seeing everything – even the stuff we usually ignore. It can be a great way to pass the time anywhere – do this whilst you’re waiting for a bus or instead of going on social media. 
  • Once you’ve noticed every item in the artwork you’re focusing on, then select a few key items and think about why they are there. Why has the artist included this item in the artwork? How does it contribute to how the artwork feels? What would the artwork feel or look like without this item? 


So for our last slow looking activity, I’d love for you to have a go at a writing activity. 
Another way of developing your observation skills and slowing down is by writing in response to an artwork. The artwork or object is the inspiration for a creative or reflective writing activity.
This can be a free writing activity – where you write continuously for a set amount of time and don’t correct or stop writing or a descriptive or creative writing activity – for example, using descriptive language to describe what you’re seeing and writing a paragraph. 
We’re going to take a descriptive walk into an artwork. Choose something with a wintery them if you like or anything that you’d like to talk a walk about in. 
I’ve chosen Breakfast Time, a painting by Swedish artist Hanna Hirsch-Pauli at the National Museum of Sweden as an antidote to long dark winter days. Either use this image or choose your own. 
  • Spend a few minutes and look closely at your choice of image. 
  • Then, I’d like you to think about what colours you see. Do the colours clash, or are they harmonious? Does the work use a variety of colours, or is it monochromatic (all shades of blue, for example)?
  • Then, name 3 colours and describe them fully. 
  • Then think about the shapes and lines that you see. Are the shapes in the work geometric, with straight lines and perfect curves, or are they more natural? Is the work dominated by any one particular type of shape, or do you see a variety of different shapes?
  • What about the lines? What different types of lines do you see? Horizontal, vertical or diagonal? Straight or curvy? Thick or thin? 
Now that you’ve had a good look, close your eyes and imagine walking in this scene for a few moments. Choose a spot to stop and stand or sit down. 
Now open your eyes, and I want you to write down brief, answers to these questions. Don’t think too hard about the questions, Just write. 
  • What do I see?
  • What do I hear/taste/smell? 
  • What do I notice?
  • What does it feel like to be in this scene? 
After you’ve finished, you could then use this to form the basis of a descriptive paragraph. 


So that’s 3 slow looking activities that you can do over the next couple of weeks during the holidays. We have a slow looking and drawing activity, a slow looking and thinking one and finally a slow looking and drawing exercise.
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 Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #winterslowlooking
Thank you for your support throughout 2021. Over the past year the podcast and blog have grown and reached people in so many different countries around the world. We’ve covered so many different subjects too.
And don’t forget every Friday I send out a weekly newsletter full of inspiration and ideas – I share one thing to watch, one to read and one to listen to every week and all the upcoming classes and courses too.
Stay safe and well and enjoy some festive slow looking too!!