“It does not matter that this is all familiar territory—the same house, the same rug and chair. To the child, the journey of this particular day, with its special light and sound, has never been made before. So the child treats the situation with the open curiosity and attention it deserves,” she continues. “The child is quite right.”
Other assignments instruct us to look long and hard at shadows cast by familiar spaces and forms: “After about five minutes you will probably think you’ve seen everything. But then after 15 or maybe 27 or maybe 58 minutes, it’s like an explosion and you see thousands of things you never knew were there.”
Create a simple tool to help you study the world
Kent encouraged all of her students to carry a “finder,” or a piece of cardboard with a rectangular hole cut into it. The inexpensive tool, which can be made by anyone with cheap and accessible materials, acts like a lens to home in on specific facets of a given environment. “You can then view life without being distracted by content,” the book explains. “You can make visual decisions—in fact, they are made for you.”
The finder became integral to Kent’s curriculum, inspiring the close study of objects—like cars—that might normally be passed without consideration of their aesthetic value. “Any car becomes a thing of beauty when viewed through a finder,” reads one prompt. “View the facade of the nearest building through the finder and isolate 10 details to draw on the spot,” instructs another.
Use objects, people, and events as your starting point
Kent believed that anything in the world, no matter how banal, could double as a deep, abundant well of creativity. “Anything that comes your way, including the work of artists, is a place for starting,” she wrote.
For her own text-based paintings and serigraphs, Kent drew from sources as wide-ranging as The Beatles, The Bible, Gertrude Stein, Martin Luther King Jr., folk art, clouds, and discussions with friends. She encouraged her students to do the same.
One assignment coaxes readers to track the growth and decline of a garden dandelion through a series of drawings. “Wait a few more days and draw it in full bloom. Wait a few more days and draw it when it begins to wilt. When it develops its downy crown, draw it again. The source is the same but has made many changes,” the book notes. “Never think of a source as being static.”
Kent also stressed the existence of intangible and invisible sources. Problems, questions, and misunderstandings are cited as generative fodder, too.