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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kennedy

The Art of Noticing

Updated: Jun 5, 2021

We’ve all been gifted with the ability to notice things and the world is constantly revealing art and music in simple, subtle ways. But it’s easy to miss out on some of these incredible moments in our busy lives.

A walk along an ocean, lake, or stream may not be possible from where you are right now. There may be no mountain for you to climb, or meadow to watch wild coyotes play in the morning mist. But arguably you can find the beauty in things from where you are right now.

Remember what we could do with clouds when we were kids?

Never lose your child self, no matter how old and frail or weak and tired your body becomes. Keep your imagination young, alive, free and alert. Stay curious and inspired by the beauty of things.

Maurice Sendak, American illustrator and writer of children's books - most notably, Where the Wild Things Are - conveyed through his illustrations life can be difficult and scary. "But if we spend half of it in darkness," says Sendak, "we might as well find rays of hope in the shadows and befriend the monsters lurking there as indelible companions in our conquest of the luminous half."

When he was a young boy M.C. Escher, one of the world’s most famous graphic artists, had a revelation which he shared in one of his journals. It was something that transformed the way he saw the world and propelled him on his artistic journey into creating his so-called impossible constructions.

In his own words, “An English swimming teacher no longer felt like keeping his bathing establishment open on Mondays and wrote on a sign (he could barely write):


"He attached the sign by means of a single nail through the middle. Some angry boys, finding themselves in front of a closed door one Monday, turned the sign around 180 degrees and were amazed to see that it made no difference when read upside down.”

The story of the pool sign started Escher’s life-long fascination with symmetry. He saw something “rationally bazaar” from a few simple words which could be read the same way right-side up or upside down.

There are signs, sunrises, sunsets, constellations and everything in between waiting to be discovered. Here's a challenge: Look for the unusual, luminous, and document it (paint it, write about it, photograph it) whatever works for you. Then share it with us. I'll go first.

Patterns: The image above is a split photo of M.C. Escher's art, along with an image (on the bottom) of the surface of dirty snow and ice shoved into a small hill at Squaw Valley’s Olympic Village parking lot. The white puddles of ice reminded me of the birds in M.C. Escher's print morphing out of the darkness of the dirty snow pile, moving in the same direction.

Like any good habit, the art of noticing takes practice. The better we become at it, the better we feel, the more we grow.

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