For the last few months I’ve been working on a series with the title Noticing: An Homage in Analog. The earliest stage of this series began with my participation in Mary Ann Reilly’s CrowdSourcingLove project. Even as I rendered the first notecard I had already begun to envision what might be included in other works.  Each piece contains unifying elements—hand lettered notecards, postmarked stamps, a line of text excerpted from various poems, as well as imagery rendered in pencil and watercolor.

Acts of noticing allow us to experience any moment in a rich, full fashion.  When we pause, to allow ourselves to become absorbed in the moment, we break from routine and the typical pace of our everyday lives.  Though the unique things that capture our attention may vary, these acts of noticing begin to develop the invaluable skill of observation.

Last month there was an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, How to End the Age of Inattention.  The article describes the value of sharp observation skills within the medical profession and cites “museum interventions” at Yale’s School of Medicine as an effective means of strengthening such skills.  While the practice of medicine benefits from heightened observation skills in significant ways, the benefits are not limited to the field of medicine.  Tony Schwartz, President and CEO of the Energy Project, also made a remarkably convincing case for paying attention in his post, Slow Down, You Move Too Fast.

This summer I have been revisiting the writing of Ellen Langer, whose research examines Mindfulness.  Also on my summer reading list is Howard Rheingold’s book, Net Smart.  Rheingold advocates that we establish tactics and practices to balance the manner of “information scanning” we have grown so accustom to in the digital age.  As I read Langer’s writing again, Mindfulness continues to feel like an important avenue to consider as we strive for balance.  In fact, early in Rheingold’s book he asserts, “It’s impossible to separate signal from noise without exercising attention, so mindfulness is a prerequisite to effective crap detection.” (Loc 205)

As for my series, Noticing, the process of conceiving each work, along with the execution, is the point.  I look forward to completing these works later this summer, but it will not mark the end of my noticing.  Quite the contrary.  The series is one of many ways to emphasize, embody and record a commitment to noticing and observation.  One of the things I value most about having a personal creative practice is each new opportunity to give tangible form to a lifetime of observation.

The popularity of digital sharing platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest reminds us that noticing can take many forms.  Responding to something posted online or posting a new photo are among the ways we demonstrate our instinct for noticing in the digital era.  On the other hand, the appeal of a sketchbook, used by artists and scientists to document observations for centuries, is hardly lost. It’s not as if digital and analog are at odds; they may just serve our noticing in different ways.

© 2012