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Some time ago I wrote down 6 words based on academic elements and principles in order to teach a design class. These words are concepts, and are often missing in contemporary classes because new students feel it’s all a little overwhelming.

And they’re right. It’s not something to “get” in just one class, but it is an important foundation for your journey. So I try to use the words in ways to learn from everyday life, and this new series will feature one word at a time.

On a personal note, it’s interesting how once I defined these words, they continue to teach me, over and over. I hope you’ll find this to be true as well.

Our first word is OBSERVE


If you’ve ever drawn anything, you’re familiar with this first word. We may easily “see” something, but it’s necessary to take a longer, deeper look to observe it. Observing takes time, focus, and sometimes, opportunity. The benefits of observing, especially from nature, are realized when we create with new eyes.

An easy way to observe is by photographing. You don’t have to be a professional photographer—I’m just a “point-and-shoot” gal who sees things with an artist’s eye. If I can do this, so can you!

Like other travelers, I love seeing cars parked near bear sightings, the sudden appearance of a rainbow, or joining a gathering for a beautiful sunset. Wonder is a benefit of taking the time to observe!

Here are just a few unexpected and magical moment that I’ve caught on camera:


On a chilly, winter walk in South Lake Tahoe, California. . .


Hiking near Yellowstone, Wyoming, where I stopped for a second look at the silent metamorphosis.


Hiking near Lake Quinault, Washington—oh, hello there!


Exploring in Wyoming, I found these birches—with a little attitude?


A creative car in Sonoma, California. Just think of the time that took!


Do you see the tiniest tree in the photo above? That was in Yellowstone, Wyoming.


Some discoveries are camouflaged and quite easily missed! Grand Cayman Islands.


In this final photo taken at Lake Louise, Canada, at first you simply see a mountain. Observing reveals more, however. . .

Thanks for joining me for this series! I’ll be back soon with my second word for artists. In the meantime, please visit me on Facebook where I’ve just added my Northern California fall classes!

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

A close companion to our first word for artists, observe, is PONDER: to contemplate, reflect, and perhaps ruminate a bit. You’ll find a lot of folks pondering in art galleries. Art exhibits offer a. . . read more

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