During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.
I REMEMBER how my education in Greek was a dead washout because they tried to teach me the grammar first, with all its intricacies and uninteresting detail, before showing me anything of the beauty of the language itself. In the same way a youngster who is anxious to draw is often put off by having to go through a course of making straight lines and curves up to the required standard and drawing blocks and cubes, etc. Whereas to the young mind eager to express itself one can do better, I think, by encouraging a boy to paint a volcano in eruption, if you want to encourage his colour vision, or to draw any incident that interests him.
The inclination to draw lies there in every human mind.
But self-expression is one of the results that can be got by encouraging drawing, however crude, on the part of the youngster. With a sympathetic critic or instructor, he can then be led on to recognise beauty in colour or in form, to realise that even in sordid surroundings there may yet be light and shadow, colour and beauty.
A further stage in his education can be brought about by getting him to practise mental photography, that is to notice the details of a scene or incident or person, and fix these in his mind, and then to go and reproduce them on paper.
This teaches observation in the highest degree. Personally I have found by practice that one can develop a certain and considerable power in this direction.
Apart from the quick observation or snapshotting details, I learned from a Japanese artist the idea of sitting down and gazing at, say, a view for a considerable time, noting colour and form, in general and in detail, and having got it fully impressed on the mind, of taking it home and developing the picture. This I termed “time exposure.”
If this art of snapshotting and time exposure is encouraged without any idea of making artists, it can have great success in developing observation, imagination, self-expression, sense of beauty and therefore a heightened form of enjoyment of life.