In our bittersweet digital age, it’s so easy to be lazy. As a photographer who has tried using film but undoubtedly prefers shooting digital, I have the ability to take thousands of photos of the same thing if I want to. Once I have a camera and hard drive, there are no other essential expenses or materials required. While I personally didn’t enjoy the process of developing film, I commend those who gather all that equipment and spend hours in the darkroom bringing their images to life. I’ll admit it is dedication beyond what a lot of digital photographers put in.
It got me thinking how I can see more when I explore my surroundings. I often leave my camera at home and just watch for a change, no longer distracted by adjusting settings and looking at yet another screen. But I still want a permanent memory of what I discover. An answer to this that I am trying to introduce into my routine is drawing.
I’ve always enjoyed art but never possessed any genuine talent for it, which is perhaps why it never became more than an occasional hobby. Whenever I see someone drawing or painting I feel an overwhelming urge to join in. I could do this at any time and yet never do. What starts as an “inspiring new project” eventually fades into a half-full notebook.
I was in Tampa this weekend visiting the Florida Aquarium, and I packed my (so far untouched) sketchbook and pens on a whim. On the first evening, I wandered along the riverside just as the sun was setting. Across the water I noticed an incredible building with bulb-like turrets and crescent moon decorations. It looked like an Indian temple; I had no idea what it really was but I retrieved my sketchbook and began to draw it.
Twenty minutes later I had drawn my impression of the scene: the turrets, a large gathering of palm trees and the restaurant in the foreground. During this time three different people approached and asked me about what I was doing. Copying as closely as I could provided an opportunity to observe a level of detail that is far harder to notice when taking photos. I finished with something I was quite proud of, not to mention a talking point with passers-by and a souvenir of my evening.
I later discovered that the exotic building was the Henry B. Plant Museum. I was somewhat disappointed to find out that it wasn’t a museum full of plants as I had originally thought.