The Creative Eye
“Look up from this book, and see what is front of you. This is your visual field”. So starts Heather Spears’ amazing book “The Creative Eye”.
I can count on one hand the people, books, events that have been a pivotal influence on my life. That have changed, not just the way I do things, but the way I think about things – particularly within art, design and drawing. Heather Spears’ “The Creative Eye” is one such book that has radically altered my understanding, perception and practice of drawing.
I am a teacher and artist. I have been teaching art classes for over 15 years. I am involved in the ‘actual, physical act’ of drawing as Heather puts it. My art courses and drawing classes focus on finding ways of supporting students to learn to draw and overcome the difficulties they experience with drawing when attending art courses. I have a very hand on approach. I am not an academic or critic. This review is written from an unashamedly personal viewpoint.
I discovered Heather’s book in my local library – by chance. Brought it home and eagerly started reading, as you do when you have a new book in your possession. I’m one of those people who like to underline important passages, make annotations in the margins – it helps me remember those facts or ideas I might want to come back to, to ponder, reflect upon, and think about more deeply.
I read the first chapter and found that I had underlined virtually every line. This was ridiculous! I quickly realised underlining was a complete waste of time – this book was so full of insights, new facts and useful suggestions that if I carried on I would end up underlining the whole book. I read the book in about 2 or 3 sittings. Very rare for me.
Heather is an artist, writer and teacher and “The Creative Eye” is I feel written by an artist for artists. I think in the writing of this book Heather understood the need for artists to understand the processes that they are involved in ‘during the act of sight’ and has given us practical ways to improve our drawing. Reading “The Creative Eye” took my understanding of drawing and my drawing practice to the next level, by offering new scientific information about sight and perception presented in a way easily understood by artists, along with countless game-changing practical exercises.
I loved her style of writing. The text is interspersed with her own, and others’ poems to illustrate certain points. I loved this aspect of the book – it really is a wholesome creative experience. Her writing style is poetic – meaning, you need to read between the lines, look below the surface for layers of additional meaning. Heather respects her audience; she nurtures our creative spirit, our ability to take creative leaps of understanding. Her text doesn’t dumb down the creative process like so many ‘how-to’ books. “The Creative Eye” takes you through a thoroughly well thought out process or course with a clear beginning, middle and end that will shake you, inspire you, and leave you excited to use all the tools in her toolbox of practical tasks to help you develop your drawing.
My experience of reading this book was of an author of generosity, creativity and a deep understanding of the human spirit. And since meeting Heather, once she started coming over to teach “The Creative Eye” in Manchester, I found all these attributes to be true in person as well. Reading, I found my mind opening, links being made between disparate ideas I had held for years. This was the book that I had been waiting to find for the previous 10 years.
I’m intrigued by how our brain works – I know the way we experience the world is not simple and I know the relationship between what we see, what we experience, and what we know all play a significant part in the kind of art we produce and most importantly how we draw. Heather’s book “The Creative Eye” unlocks much of the mystery of sight and gives us the tools to unpick the reasons why students keep making the same mistakes. What I found so stunning was that “The Creative Eye” was offering me the depth of knowledge, insight and practical tasks to be able to go back to my students with a plan of how to help them succeed in their drawing courses and art classes that they were attending.
I have been aware that “The natural way to draw” by Kimon Nicolaides, published in 1941, has underpinned the teaching of drawing, particularly life drawing, for all these decades. Teaching in art courses and drawing classes across the world seems to have a very linear tradition. Young teachers teach the way they were taught, etc. In my opinion I think Heather Spears’ book “The Creative Eye” takes the teaching tradition of the previous 70 years or so and hauls it into the 21st century. “The Creative Eye” should be seen as the next teaching text that should underpin the teaching of drawing and life drawing for the next generation.