Learning to see



In his 1974 commencement address at Caltech, legendary physicist, Richard Feynman, famously said the following.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard Feynman
Caltech commencement address, 1974

As it turns out, this is not just relevant to life, science and business – it’s critical to my 2021 goal of learning to draw.

As we know, our brains streamline vast amounts of incoming data so that we can focus on the things that matter, but this simplification comes at a cost.

We miss things. We take short cuts.

For example, you have a basic mental model of a tree which stands in for most trees everywhere. It’s a low resolution model, but generally speaking, it’s all you need to go about your daily life.

Likewise a house, a bicycle, a person.

When most of us draw a human face without reference – using our low-resolution model – we’re likely to put the eyes about 3/4 of the way up the head.

You need to actually study a face to understand that the eyes are in the middle, vertically speaking.

In other words, I have to break through my mental models, and look to the reality beneath.

No two trees are the same.

I started this process believing that I needed to work on shape, proportion and shading.

This is coming, of course, but unless I first focus on truly seeing the subject, the rest won’t matter.

Check out my other posts in the 2021 challenge, or listen to the podcast.

What about your story?