Leslie at the Noguchi Museum
Exercises in Perception
In my work as a psychotherapist I found that while many people see a great deal about themselves in therapy, their knowledge often remains ineffective with respect to the actual quality of their lives.
In the East, the student of Zen is taught to maintain meditative awareness in all contexts through the practice of walking and working zazen. This technique inspired me to integrate therapy with art. Going beyond traditional talk therapy, some of my clients try a doing approach. Insight is cultivated while learning an art form which adds a practice dimension to the work of self-development.
When we work with our hands, we express our feelings and thoughts just as we do when we speak. As we attempt to master a skill, we often encounter obstacles rooted in our own psyches.
In order to transcend those difficulties, we have to change ourselves.
One of the exercises I use is based on contour line drawing as developed by Kimon Nicolaides. He said that “learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see.” In contour line drawing, you follow the outline or edge of your subject with your eye as your hand follows with your pencil on your paper. You donít look at your paper. You let your hand see by moving your eye slowly along the contour of the model as you move your pencil slowly along the paper.
While this is an excellent exercise for learning to draw, it can also be an occasion of self discovery. The speed of your eye and the speed of your pencil may be inconsistent. If so, in which way? In an uncanny way, your drawing may resemble yourself. You may find that you exaggerated certain features but not others. Each observation you make about your drawing can be traced back to your own psychic state. The contour line drawing exercise can initiate self-exploration.