I had an enlightening experience while taking an online art course: I learned how useful a rubric can be, but more importantly, I learned how other people could be seeing different things from what I see.
The assignment was simple: create an image of some sort (in any medium) and share it with the class. Then we had to look at others’ images and simply describe it.
This instruction to “describe what you see” struck me as…well to put it bluntly, really stupid. I thought, what’s the point? It’s obvious what’s right there. How can this possibly be of any use? But, obedient student that I am, I followed the instructions and wrote down what I saw for three of the images. It was reading what other people wrote about my image that the value of this exercise became clear.
I’m not sure anymore what the prompt was for the assignment, but what I’d done was pile some geodes into one of the square frames of the picture window in my living room and take a picture of the ensemble with the window frame serving as the frame of the photo. I believe I was going for an abstract-type of photo, with round and square objects. BUT, someone had noticed the car passing by in the background of my photo. Someone else had identified the square as a window frame —so much for being abstract!
As I said, it was very enlightening. All I had intended was round/square. However, much more than that was seen and then interpreted by the viewers.
So my biggest takeaway from the course was the discovery that what I think is completely objective is actually not. Other people may see different things from what I see. Other people may see things differently from how I see.
Is it any wonder then that we can see the events of the world differently? Or that we have so many challenges with communication? And, for the creatives out there, this is why you have to be so exacting in your art, whether it’s visual or written.