BITESIZE: 4 SLOW LOOKING EXERCISES FOR SUMMER 2022
In an age where the average person checks their phone at least 85 times a day, our inundated brains are slowing down.
We need to retrain ourselves to get better at sustained attention. And to learn to appreciate the benefits of it too.
Spending time slow looking offers refuge from the rush and time to slow down and see the details. It’s the opposite of scanning and scrolling.
“Always-on” behaviour is about being in a constant state of alertness without giving our full focus to anything. Slow looking is a wonderful alternative to life in the fast lane.
The 4 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. You can do these activities with art, objects or with nature. You don’t have to be in a museum to do slow looking. They are designed to work in a range of environments, outside and inside.
All are designed to help improve your focus and observation skills and to help you slow down and relax. I hope they will contribute to a wonderful 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 and I know we’ve mentioned it here before and in our Slow Looking Club on Facebook. But there is a reason that it is a really popular activity. It’s great to do at any time of year, but in summer, when the colours are all a-glow, it’s eally stunning. The idea for this is simple – as you step outside of the door, choose a colour to first focus on. You can either take photos of where you spot your colour or make mental notes. Give this a go and I GUARANTEE you will start to see your colour everywhere (even on a grey day!) Think about:
- 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, how often does your colour appear? Were there any surprises?
- 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 ROOM WITH A VIEW
This second activity is for those rainy days when you’re stuck inside, or for the moments when you’re visiting amazing places and look through a window and say ‘wow’ to yourself. You can of course do this from your house or office if you want to reframe the everyday and see something new or different in a familiar view.
- Find a window to spend 5 mins with.
- First examine the frame closely, what do you notice about the frame?
- Study the view. What do you see? What do you notice? Try and compile an inventory or list of what you see in your head.
- Then, look for any movement (do you see people? clouds? birds?)
- If it’s a familiar view, find 3 new things that you’ve never seen or noticed before.
- Then focus on one thing for a full minute. You can time yourself if you want.
Throughout this activity, you can choose to ‘tell yourself’ what you see, write down in a notebook or draw the view from your window. Do this activity with a family member or friend and say what you notice out loud – you’ll notice more things together!
This third activity can take place anywhere – 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). We are going to be comparing and contrasting and looking carefully for similarities and differences. A slow comparison helps to reveal more information.
- When you’re out and about find two things to compare and contrast. It could be two statues, two paintings, two buildings or two trees. You decide. Make sure they are fairly close to each other.
- First spend some time observing and describing one of the objects. What do you see? What do you notice? What are you wondering about? Make notes in a notepad or in your head or discuss with a friend or sketch what you see.
- Then look at the second object. And repeat the same questions. What do you see? What do you notice and what are you wondering about?
- Finally, compare and contrast the two. What kinds of connections can you find? How are they similar? How are they different? Brainstorm a list of similarities and differences to share with someone or just note down for yourself.
#4 BEAUTY HUNT
This fourth final activity can be done anywhere – in your home, when you’re out and about or in a museum or gallery. You can: ✭ look for beauty in the everyday. It might be as simple as sunlight streaming through a window or a special place in your home. ✭ look for beauty in art and museums – see what artworks speak to you as you wander around. Which ones draw you in and why? ✭ look for beauty in nature – that morning dew or a beautiful flower, tree or blade of grass. Go on the hunt for beauty. Look at where it shows up and how it shows up. This slow looking exercise can be done alone or in groups. It’s great fun with others as you will all probably have different definitions of what beauty is.
- First, have a chat or a think about what you all think beauty is. How might we define it? What makes something beautiful – for example, what makes beauty in art and what makes art beautiful?
- Then actively go looking for beauty. Stop when you find it and spend some time looking at it. What do you see? What do you notice? Remember the focus is on looking, letting questions emerge and continuing to look. The longer you look, the more insights will come to you.
- Then think about what makes THIS beautiful to you? If you’re with others, show them what ‘beauty’ you found and explain why it’s beautiful in your eyes. Talk about ways you might make it even more beautiful too.
- After you’ve seen everyone’s beautiful thing, discuss whether there were any things that you had in common with each other or if you all saw beauty differently.
So I’ve covered 4 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
- Room with a view
- Beauty Hunt
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
SLOW LOOKING CLUB
And don’t forget my FREE new Facebook group The Slow Looking Club created especially for podcast listeners. It’s a place for conversation and discussion about engaging with art, objects and life slowly. I’ll share resources, ideas and tips for anyone interested in looking at art – whether it’s for your personal enjoyment or your practice as a cultural educator. And we’ll have regular slow looking moments together too!