(Part 2 in “Seeing Lessons” here)

In the high-speed life, we almost seem to have lost our ability to see.

Life for many fast-paced families is, after all, speeding past in a blur. Are we losing the habit of attention? How can we make careful, clear, focused observations when our eyes are darting from the cell phone, to the BlackBerry, to the speedometer?

It’s as if we need seeing lessons.

A post the other day about slowing down to focus (and rushing through the Louvre) got me to thinking about learning to appreciate art.

"The Circus," Georges Pierre Seurat (Musee d'Orsay, Paris)

"The Circus," Georges Pierre Seurat (Musee d'Orsay, Paris)

Art, I think, can teach us to see again.

Years ago I stumbled upon a blog about “art…parenting…life…and trying to piece it all together,” called Mental Tesserae. The blogger is an art instructor and a mom. She really does blend thoughts about art, parenting and life in her posts. Mental Tesserae has provided many amusing and memorable art lessons.

Take, for example, this post she created about Magritte’s “Man with a newspaper.” She helps me really look at the artwork. Then she helps me think about it. She personalizes it with a story from her own life, and I leave her blog empowered and capable of appreciating it more than I ever would have on my own.

This article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weekends ago showcased Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa,” providing historical and artistic background that gave me a greater understanding of its importance and impact on art in the 19th century. I’m starting to look for tools like this, written by experts who can provide the “anatomy of a classic” for ordinary readers like me.

Also, Mental Multivitamin posts Fine Art Friday briefly highlights various ways she is exploring art by seeing, learning and doing. I’m inspired by her autodidact approach.

In the spirit of an autodidact, I found this site geared for kids that invites you to click through a fun exercise, something like a game, to learn about art.

KidsArt has a list of famous artwork to click on and learn about.

[UPDATE: Just added,with thanks to Ann Voskamp for this biblical art link]

Or just visiting various collections at galleries around the world online gives us plenty of artwork to study. We can visit:

At the Louvre site, you can enjoy an online tour of its most famous masterpieces, or browse through what it has posted online of its 35,000 works of art. Pick a department to narrow things down.

These tools help me spend a little time studying and thinking about details I might have missed on my own.

Detail from "The Circus," George Pierre Seurat (Musee d'Orsay, Paris)

Detail from "The Circus," George Pierre Seurat (Musee d'Orsay, Paris)

They provide some lessons in how to see.

I want to learn to see everything more closely and clearly, and art is a place to practice.

(Photo credit: Ann Kroeker, taken at the Musee d’Orsay, 1991)

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