Wandering from city streets to home

By Frederique P Corson

My first encounter with Street Wisdom was after having downloaded their free audio guide with some colleagues in Montreal. Their “Slow Right Down” tune-up exercise was particularly poignant to me. Slowing down and observing had already been an area of interest. I do believe that attentive observation is conducive to heightened learning and making sense of one’s surroundings.

I often turn to the city streets for inspiration. During my bachelor studies, I had the opportunity to take a drawing class in Italy. We spent five hours a day drawing, wandering around the beautifully narrow streets of Acquapendente with our folding chair, sketchbook and pencils. “Drawing from observation is about creating a direct link between your eyes and your hand, without going through your brain,” our professor explained. “The more you look at a scene, the more sensible the drawing will be. Focus on the negative space. Draw the sky in between the buildings before drawing the buildings.” I have carried this advice with me ever since. Over time, life has introduced me to other creative expressions outside of drawing.

Sketchbook picture, Italy, 2010 © Fred P Corson

More recently, in March 2020, I came back from a family trip to Europe and had to spend 14 days at home in Montreal in quarantine. This is how, almost 10 years after taking that class in Italy, my love for drawing came back to me. I decided to draw from different perspectives around my home on blank postcards that I would then send to different recipients. I committed to creating one drawing a day. It allowed me to establish a new daily routine (after having lost my job due to the circumstances), stay connected to my surroundings, and have my art travel for me. These 14 days quickly became 30, then 50. Putting pencil to paper has become my way of forcing my brain to “slow right down”, a disciplined exercise of focussed observation and patience.

I couldn’t be happier to see that Street Wisdom was coming home! My first Street Corner workshop resonated deeply with my own drawing beliefs. David Pearl invited us to wander around the room and challenged us to “forget” the names of things. What is this called again? What does it do? We proceeded to question every little thing. We refused to recognize them conventionally. The exercise reminded me of the merits of drawing from observation. It’s all about the intentional attempt to reject recognition in exchange for the simple visual interpretation of what is being drawn. It encourages the artist to really see what is in front of them and connect their eyes straight to their hand.

I would encourage everyone to seize the opportunity of self-isolation to find intrigue in your own environment and be drawn to what inspires you.

Frédérique P Corson

See all Staying Home drawings here