The beat cops should have known better. They should have figured the kids making rubbings of an ancient sewer cover in the middle of Fifth Avenue were just art students fulfilling an assignment. What person in their right mind would have a buddy directing traffic around them as they squat in the middle of a swirling New York street unless they had to? I mean, they knew Parsons was just a few blocks down.
To avoid any unpleasantness, I worked on a wall plaque attached to an old building myself.
“Don’t you know what you’re doing is illegal?” I turned my head to see a police officer glaring down on me.
“I was just making a rubbing.”
“That’s defacing property.”
“You mean I can’t make rubbings? I’ve got to do it for school.”
He shook his head slowly. He probably thought our teacher was a nut case.
“Just don’t let me catch you destroying property.”
With that he walked away.
Maybe Mr. Norado was unconventional, but this exercise and others like it taught us to see, to really see what was around us. From these larger assignments and the filled black sketch books we got the pump primed for actual design solutions, William Golden style. (The guy that designed the old NBC logo after seeing display of branding irons in a Tiffany window.)
Sure, none of us are Sherlock Holmes. We don’t go through life collecting minute observations of everything around us. I suspect that much volume would make us mad through synaptic overload. But it doesn’t hurt to really look at something once and a while for the sheer joy of it. To see how beautifully hand drawn letters interact on an ancient enameled sign, or appreciate the seemingly airbrushed colors of a Cedar Waxwing.
So look, and while you do, savor it all.