seeing clearly and telling plainly
The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something,
and tell what it saw in a plain way.
Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think,
but thousands can think for one who can see.
To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion – all in one.
– John Ruskin
Watercolor study of foreground material
(Wild Rose running in a cleft of Derbyshire limestone)
I used to lie down on the grass and draw the blades as they grew –
until every square foot of meadow, or mossy bank, became a possession to me.
Ferns on a Rock 1875
Image copyright The Ruskin Library at
Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that you went down such and such a lane.
– John Ruskin, quoted in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
On Art and Life
– John Ruskin