How to observe a painting

Have you ever been shown,  by one of those fantastic ‘go the extra mile’ art historians at an exhibit, how to observe a painting?

They say the best way is to start with your nose practically touching it,  the colour, texture and vibrance filling your every sense.    You then move backwards,  one step at a time,  still facing the painting but slowly allowing more of the piece to enter your vision and add to the overall effect.

Soon, that first overwhelming collision of colour and those large important brush strokes become the fine lines making up a larger piece.  Soon, your senses are able to process what they are absorbing and see the painting for what it was intended,  or at least your interpretation of that.

It is important for the observer to remember the initial feeling,  like a gnarled and experienced adult remembering the naivety of childhood.


You might be,  very understandably,  wondering what the hell I’m on about?

Recently I’ve been seeing my ex about once a week and our interaction is a strange blur of lines.  Who knows what’s going on but we agree its healing us both.  Towards the end of our relationship we were more like best friends anyway,  knowing each other inside out and supporting each other… mature or stupid,  you decide.

In this fantastic ‘woman’s week’ of mine,  that bastard week of hot water bottles, popping paracetamol like tic-tacs and avoiding my favourite jeans,  I’ve been a bit more emotional. As is to be RUDDY expected. Woe.
This is what I’ve been doing in my whirring little brain…I come back from a morning spent with him and  I go through a similar process that described in the art gallery. Yay for metaphors.

I get completely absorbed in the bright, shiny ‘realness’ of the moment.  The easy conversation,  hearing how he is,  telling him how I’m getting on, laughing, flirting a little and finding every accidental touch exhilarating.
I take one step back.
Into view comes my friends and mother shaking their heads,  worried I’ll get hurt,  despite me telling them I know what I’m doing. Into view comes the reminder that it won’t be as it was,  at least not until he figures out what he wants…or for years.
I take another step back.
He hurt you,  don’t forget that.  He couldn’t commit to you,  he  wasn’t ‘able’ to give up the woman he was seeing in London.  Remember how those words stung.  Be careful.

Here’s the thing.  If we only ever allowed ourselves to see the complete painting or ‘big picture’,  never focus on or remember the ‘nose to brush strokes’ stuff….I think romantics would loose the will.
We NEED that exciting moment when we aren’t thinking about the grown up shit.
We NEED to pause before stepping back every now and then, else we’ll never want to trust or love again.
Those people who look at paintings,  or love,  by approaching from a distance?  Yes they may avoid a lot of heart ache because they see the big picture first BUT…they miss so many moments of being completely absorbed in love.
In feeling like you’ve only just looked up and seen the sky is blue.

If the broken were to forget those initial brush strokes of bright, vivid colour that they saw before they started to step backwards….then….honestly? They’d never want to love again.



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