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Observation: The Common Denominator in Art, Creativity, and Mental Health

We talk a lot about "noticing", "paying attention" and "exploring" here in the studio...to how art materials behave, to what interests you, and to your own physical, mental, and emotional experience of creating and reacting. But have you ever wondered why we place so much emphasis on this?


There are a few reasons, and they're pretty closely related.

  1. Observation is a key component in creativity. Most creative output is inspired by noticing something, whether that's a problem or pain point, detail outside our normal pattern of awareness, or everyday assumption that takes on new meaning. (Example: velcro was invented by George de Mestral, who noticed that burs stuck to his clothes...)

  2. Noticing and observing your internal and external world is also central to supporting your health. In the context of mental health, noticing your own reactions to situations or events is step one. Step two; understanding why those reactions are happening. This in turn supports step three; taking the best course of action to make changes when and how you need to. This dynamic is connected in different ways to mindfulness, CBT, and trauma treatment, to name a few.

  3. Finally, close observation is often central to powerful and meaningful artistic expression, which as we've discussed previously in The Blue Print, is NOT always the same as creativity. Listen to Rindon Johnson talk about his process that developed from an interest in the material of Vaseline, or expanding on the idea of gaming.

In short, training your ability to take notice and observe details beyond the immediately obvious can have broad, but also connected implications. Art, creativity, and well-being are closely linked, and it feels significant that observation is a common denominator.


This appreciation for close observation also guides how we develop programming, both in the studio, and for our virtual offerings. The question of "how do you come up with these class concepts?" came up at the end of a recent Render Venture Series, where classes generally skew further away from the "traditional", although there is plenty of room to interrogate the very idea of the traditional.

The shortest, most honest answer is that we are pretty much constantly scanning and observing art, materials, colors, ideas, patterns, textures and forms that are floating around in the world. We're in the habit of paying attention to our emotional reactions (that's interesting!/surprising!/wacky!/relaxing!) to those observations, and then exploring and refining them further to set you up for a totally unique, rich, and creative experience. With intentionality and practice, it becomes second nature. It's also a ton of fun.


If you've joined us in the studio or online, hopefully you already know what we're talking about. Either way, what's your take on the purpose or benefits of observation in your life?

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