With My Little Eye
The Blog Post In Which I Differentiate “Activity” and “Exercise” and Encourage Creative Exploration of Your Neighbourhood
Fun Activity Alert!*
*I won’t refer to this as an ‘exercise,’ because that word makes me think of sweat and tears, and we’ve had enough of those over the past year.
This is a great way to flex your creative muscles while a) stepping outdoors (yes, you can and should) and b) exploring your own neighbourhood.
I’ve come across a few versions of this activity over the years. In my mind, I’ve named it “I Spy.” (I try to be clever, but, as middle age progresses, I increasingly confuse ‘clever’ with ‘corny’). In any case, here’s how it works:
Choose a theme. It can be simple and literal (a colour, a shape, a pattern) or more complex and abstract (a concept such as connection, loneliness, resilience).
Choose your tool. Mine is a camera. Yours might be a paintbrush, or a pencil, or anything else you can use to record and interpret what you see.
Go outside and start walking. No need for exotic locations (though they’re fun, too). Our backyards and neighbourhoods are brimming with subjects, if we look hard enough.
Find and record as many examples of your theme as you can. Don’t overthink it. Just shoot (or sketch, write, crochet, whatever). Bonus points for giving yourself a time limit.
And…that’s it. Easy.
In this example - completed, as you can see, during a warmer season - I kept my theme as basic as basic can be: circles. I gave myself an hour to walk around downtown Galt (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada), looking for literal circles of all kinds.
In the end, I came away with over 50 different shots, making a rather interesting (in my opinion) collection, tied together with a unified idea and locale. Even ordinary subjects can be intriguing, especially in a group.
I didn’t agonize about composition or exposure. It was a chance to let intuition and vision lead; to practice ‘seeing’ and not to get hung up on mechanics. Too often, we hold ourselves back fixating on rules or technicalities. I see this activity as the equivalent of freewriting in language arts - a strategy of reducing our urge to censor and judge our work before it even takes form.
Try it. While I offer no guarantee that there won’t be sweat or tears involved, at least you won’t drop a weight on your head or pull a muscle mid-sit-up.
That’s my kind of exercise.