Every day on my walk, there’s at least one thing that will catch my eye. Inevitably the camera (well, my phone) comes out, a pause to compose, and snap. And sometimes, someone else will pause to see what I’m noticing. They may even ask me about what’s caught my eye as there’s nothing obvious, that they can see, to take a picture of. 

And then I point out the object of my noticing. 

Noticing the smile in the pavement :-)
Noticing the smile in the pavement 🙂

And more often than not, they’re surprised and say something like, I never would have noticed that without you pointing it out. 

Yesterday, someone sort of chuckled as if to say, I think you’re pulling my leg after I pointed out and raved a bit about the graffiti! (Meanwhile, I was thinking, how can I use these ideas in my own work?)

Noticing the Graffiti on a utility box - love the variety of marks all in black and grey and white!
Graffiti on a utility box – love the variety of marks all in black and grey and white!

Occasionally, I’ll get a thank-you-for-pointing-that-out. And sometimes, if we’re both inclined to pause, we’ll have a short chat about what it is we’re noticing together. 

Reflections at a construction site
Reflections at a construction site

I LOVE the above-mentioned opportunities to share these small noticings. As I’ve written about before, we’re so lucky to see the world through artist’s eyes. We notice things others don’t. And, we tend to think everyone sees the same way we do. But they don’t. 

In take of breath at the glow from the red door!
In take of breath at the glow from the red door!

I believe part of our job as artists is to keep pointing out these small moments of extraordinariness. Noticing these unseen things takes being present and attentive to what’s going on around us. Not just the big obvious gorgeous things but all the minutiae and tiny wonders that can easily be missed. 

Noticing the pattern of leaves against the verticals of branches
Noticing the pattern of leaves against the verticals of branches

Our world is an incredible place. There’s beauty even in the ugly if we just take the time to pause and notice. 

That bin!! And there's the bonus of a reflection!
That bin!! And there’s the bonus of a reflection!

And remember, not everything needs to become a painting. 

I revel in this daily practice of noticing, in not just looking but see-ing! All of it feeds my artistic soul. And you never know when something will reveal itself intentionally or unexpectedly in a painting!

Noticing this beautiful red leaf merging with the pavement
Noticing this beautiful red leaf merging with the pavement

Tell me, what have you noticed recently?

Until next time,


PS. There’s a super book of activities called The Art of Noticing.

Here’s a quote used in the book that I think captures what noticing does for us:

When you actively notice new things, that puts you in the present…As you’re noticing new things, it’s engaging, and it turns out…it’s literally, not just figuratively, enlivening.

~ Ellen J. Langer
Noticing the snowfall patterns - natural and manmade
Noticing the snowfall patterns – natural and manmade

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10 thoughts on “The Art Of Noticing”

  1. Thanks, Gail! I found that right after I had my first few drawing lessons, way back when, I started noticing things like the orderly fruits and veggies at the grocery store, the patterns of leaves the petals of flowers…so many details! So much to see! It adds so much to the quality of my life to be looking for interesting and beautiful things wherever I am. I really related to this post. Thanks!

    1. Oh my gosh yes Wendy! Once we start looking deeply, for instance when we are drawing, our whole noticing of things changes! We are attentive to all the small wonderful details that surround us.

  2. 😀 Great post Gail! I’ve been “noticing” faces in things as my new habit, and started a second Instagram earlier this year just for fun and giggles. If you’re curious check out @para.eidolon. (I also follow only other facefinders on that account so I have a funny place to visit each morning 😂

    1. Hah hah – I’m following you now! The images bright a BIG smile to my face…hah hah…face!! And gosh, who knew there were so many accounts about seeing faces. Thanks Rita!!

  3. Thank you for communicating what’s been a part of my practice during walks. So grateful to know I’m not the only one enamored with leaves on the road!

  4. I love this post. I have been noticing reflections on glass buildings and have one picture I want to paint but so far can’t make it work. I also love shooting pictures of snowfall other small things.

  5. Love this blog. It makes life so much richer when you notice the small things that often go unnoticed. For the past 3 years, mostly because of covid, I have spent part of each day photographing things in my backyard: Moss, lichen, butterflies, birds, shadows falling on snow, clouds.

    1. Ohhh that’s marvellous!! It’s amazing what we can see on a daily basis when we really look, things we didn’t quite notice in the same way the day before!

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Gail Sibley

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My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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