Paying Attention, Part II – By @augustine_cerf

Augustine Cerf

By Augustine Cerf


Paying Attention, Part II

Our two life drawing sessions have been both deeply therapeutic and a rare lesson in paying attention. In our first class, we stood in front of a sheet of paper about our height and, eyes closed, used charcoal to map out how our body felt. The charcoal allowed for true attentiveness to one’s body – the range of density and expressiveness of the medium works at a tactical as well as at an aesthetic level. Stopping to focus on the physicality of one’s own body flushes out all the wordy nonsense that the brain hauls onto experience, stripping us down to corporeal sensations. We’ve learnt hundreds of inspiring and useful things from multifarious sources in the past three weeks and as someone who tends to overthink everything, I found the act of stopping, collecting oneself and just being a body really potent.


Our second class involved drawing each other. It’s rare to pause and to just connect with what it is to be a body at times other than at 4am when, waking up to soundless dark and blinking, insomnia brings on crises of identity. It’s rarer still to be allowed to stare unabatedly at the shapes that make up other people’s faces (pre or post-coital contexts aside). The lines of a face that we are too embarrassed to ogle at day to day tell many a tale; there’s something to be said for getting to know how a person smiles. In the first week of school, the skin around my mouth took on a life of its own, started making tense shapes I couldn’t recognize. My nervousness and self-consciousness gravitated to the edges of my lips, just south of my nostrils. If you care to notice, the spasms of an upper lip can speak volumes. Connecting with someone else as a physical entity, really seeingthem, is a pretty remarkable exercise. I got to know the particular curvatures of Sasha’s brows, the angles and shadows of her nose and I can almost see the lines that make up Kenny’s jaw when I shut my eyes (thanks and sorry, Kenny). It’s refreshing to actually observe how a person moves, to watch them and sketch them, to become alive to the singularities of their expressions and postures. You get to know a person when you get to know their face, if only because you take the time to give them your attention. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own head and to stop being heedful and mindful, or simply aware, of the people around. Yet taking a moment to know them, to pay very close attention to the lines, gestures and expressions that make up a person is immensely valuable. We have much to learn from each other and perhaps even more to gain from giving each other our time, concentration and genuine interest.

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