Sense of wonder in a very ordinary scene

Do you still have a sense of wonder? Can you get excited by simple, ordinary things around you? If yours has faded I hope I can refresh your excitement and help you redevelop wonderment.

It came built in

When we were small, most of us had this wonderment. Everything was new and fresh and exciting. An ice cream cone, a kitten, a flower, a ball, a bicycle – they all captivated us. We could go out and play all day with a cardboard box.

But then somewhere along the line, we “grew up”. It is what we were supposed to do. At least, that’s what they said. We became too “mature” for that child-like wonder. Cynicism replaced wonder. Boredom chokes out the joy we had.

Are our lives better off based on cynicism? Perhaps we should try to recapture some of what we had. I believe we can relearn some of this joy and wonder if we work at it.

Change the context

Most of us lead pretty routine, repeatable lives. Making a change to the routine can wake up new ways to see things. Go out for walk. Get up earlier. Sleep in later. Instead of going to one of your normal restaurants fix a picnic and go to a park. Stop and look at a sunset. Really look.

See a road you haven’t been down? Take it. See what’s there. It will probably only take a few minutes, but you expand your viewpoint and feed your curiosity. It’s worth it to me. Even is it is ugly and awful and seems to be a waste, I believe you are better off for breaking the routine and trying it.

Feed your curiosity

Are you still curious? I ask seriously. Many people don’t seem to be curious about the world around them. I think that is part of the cynicism that shuts down the desire to know more. For some it is enough to try to decide what’s for dinner and which TV show to watch.

If you are reading this blog I hope that is not you. I hope you burn with curiosity about a variety of subjects. Let that drive you to do something. Look it up. Build something. Try something new. Read a biography of someone you admire.

Let me give a small example that is completely off topic from art, but relevant to the idea of curiosity. My city is installing fiber to the house broadband throughout the town. So for months there has been strange equipment around putting the conduits underground. I was curious about how that worked so I looked up some articles on horizontal boring. It is pretty fascinating. It is a much better way of installing pipes in areas where there is already a lot of utilities in the way. Now when I see this equipment I have a better idea of how it works and I feel better for taking the time to satisfy my curiosity.

I believe curiosity goes hand in hand with our sense of wonder. They each support the other. As you let your curiosity grow and feel its way in different directions your wonder will grow at what you are discovering. And your wonder encourages you to be more curious.

Slow down

Slowing down can be hard for us. The world pushes us forward at breakneck speed. Faster, be more productive, multi-task, don’t slack off.

But slowing down sometimes (and unplugging from media and social networks) can be very good for us. When we take it slow for a change we see new things. We see things in new ways. Let your mind rest and catch up. Give it some time to relax and think.

And like changing the context, slowing down allows us to see things different. Instead of flashing by with little thought we can take a new look at things around us. Start to really see. Seeing leads to wonder.

One of the things I love to do is show someone a picture and have them say “that’s pretty neat, I’ve never seen that before.” And I point out to them that it is a block from where they are and they’ve passed it 100 times without seeing it. Some people are insulted. But some learn from that that there are interesting things to see all around ir you are receptive.


This is an easy one. Travel takes us to new locations, out of the norm, maybe out of our comfort zone. This is good. Things seem new and different, and for a while we tend to look around more.

It has always been said that travel is broadening. I agree. The change in perspective and environment and getting out of the usual can be very good for us. One of the hard things is to bring this awakened viewpoint back home. We so quickly fall back into our ruts.

You have control of your attitude. Come back from the trip with a commitment to see your local area as if it was an exotic destination. Sounds silly, but try it.

it’s an attitude

You control your ability to find wonder around you. It is an attitude and something you can practice to improve. Like learning any new habit, it takes time and hard work.

First, you have to decide that a new sense of wonder is worth it. It might take a while to rediscover that spark and recognize it. Then you have to practice finding it. Then you have to keep on pushing yourself to keep looking with fresh eyes, even when everything seem so boring.

Be open to it

Wonderment is really something we find within ourselves. We have to look inside and discover that we are curious and new things we see and find can be exciting and worthwhile.

Climb out of your rut. Take a fresh look around. See with new eyes and a new attitude. Practice, practice, practice.

Somewhere inside is still some of that child-like wonder we used to have. When we bring it out again we have a fresh and exciting life. Be amazed.

Note on the photo: This is a perfectly common and ordinary scene where I live. You would probably walk by it with barely a glance. I have changed it in ways that makes it abstract and difficult to recognize, and to me, it exudes wonder.

A Sense of Wonder

A result of following curiosity

Remember wonder? Most of us came with a sense of wonder. Think of a kid at Disneyworld. Or that kid with a brush or a pencil or sidewalk chalk drawing their creations. Or just playing with toys.

Somewhere along the way this sense of wonder is squeezed out of most of us. We “grow up” and see everything coldly and analytically, or we live in fear of everything that could happen to us. Of course we have to grow up, but losing our joy and wonder of the world is a tragedy.

My point of view here is mainly that of an artist, but the comments generally apply in a much broader scope. In a sense this article is a followup to a previous one on learning what excites us.

Wonder drives us

As artists (or well-balanced people) wonder is what makes us take a fresh look at everything around us. It propels us forward to discover and explore. Wonder lets us walk around the block and see something we have never noticed before that interests us or leads us to make a connection with something else.

Wonder is the “what if?” that leads us to see new things or try new things. Without it we tend to do the same things over and over mechanically, routine. As artists we can easily get in a rut. We always produce similar work, because that is what we do. Maybe that is what we became known for.

A rut is stagnant. It always goes the same places. We don’t grow. Eventually we get bored with what we are producing and it shows.

Wonder feeds our curiosity

One of the greatest benefits we have as humans is curiosity. Most of us are not grubbing around to look for our next meal or to simply survive. We want to create, to make our mark. We know there is something more than the day to day activities that occupy us. Questions intrigue us and we want answers. Or at least, we want to try to figure them out.

I believe, and this is totally non-scientific, that wonder leads and drives our curiosity. If you don’t wonder at something why would you be curious? Wonder sparks the “how?”, “why?”, “what if?”, “could I?” side of us. It shows us there are new dimensions to explore, new sights we have not found yet.

Being open and receptive to wonder makes us take a fresh look at the world around us.


Are you looking around you and really seeing things? Or are you moving through life in a fog, with your headphones on and buried in your phone?

Not to sound judgmental, but that is what I observe of most people around me. The reality is that wonder is a still, small voice that needs quiet to be heard. It is easily drowned out by noise. The world around us inundates us with a constant stream of media designed to keep us captive and tuned in to their stream. I know from my own experiments that I have to unplug to activate my wonder and curiosity.

Try it. Go out sometime without a camera or sketch book, just you. Leave your phone in your pocket. Put away the headphones. Just wander. It will seem very strange at first. Disconcerting. But keep at it.

After a while I predict you will start to look around more. You will start to actually see things, maybe for the first time. Let your curiosity feed on it. What is that? Was this always here? That’s interesting, but I’ve never noticed it.

It basically comes down to giving your self permission to slow down and explore. This is a hard step for some of us. Practice it. It is kind of like meditation. It may seem strange at first, but it gets easier and more beneficial with practice.

And in my experience, it works the same driving in a car. That is, turn off the radio and just look around (as much as you safely can). Give your self permission to take side trips, to stop and look at anything that catches your eye. Let those cars pass you. Try it. It feeds your mind and it gets easier with practice.


I started off talking about the natural wonder we had as children. To some extent we can recapture it. We just have to un-learn some of our adult traits. A good path is to learn to play again.

As kids we played a lot. BTW, I hope you let your kids have lots of unstructured time for play. Not with socially relevant or educational toys, but with a box or some paper or string or … Anyway, adults can play, too. It is good for us. Very good.

Follow your curiosity. Pursue goals that probably won’t lead to a profitable outcome, but that you are interested in. Learn something new.

As an artist, assign yourself a strange project. One you have never done before and aren’t likely to put in your portfolio. Explore the dark recesses of your tools, like Photoshop blending modes for example. Not to create something great, but to explore and find out what might happen.

That’s one of the things about play, it is usually unstructured and just for you. There is no intent to produce something for other people. The benefits are indirect and very personal.

Be different

I highly recommend you redevelop a child-like wonder for your work and the world around you. Give your self permission to be unconventional. You will start to see more. You will become more curious about things. Hopefully you will act on your curiosity. Observe, experiment, plan to throw your experiments away. The joy and learning is in the doing or the seeing.

In my art I have followed my curiosity and am starting to see beyond the traditional limits of my media. I push past the conventional views I have long held and try to re-imagine the normal. I am doing whole new views of common everyday scenes. You may not like it. Nobody has to other than me. But it renews me. I feel like I am opening up new doors.

Please try to renew your art and your life. It is the only life we have.

Living a Rich Life

Jumble of winter aspens

I have come to a place in my life where I understand that living a rich life is much more rewarding than recognition or even money.

But what is a “rich” life? This will vary for different people. For me, I find it to be having a great, supportive spouse, family, good friends to share things with, enough money to do many of the things I want without worrying, and time and opportunity to pursue my creative interests. It rests on a foundation of peace that comes from a secure relationship with God.

There are 2 words that summarize a lot of this for me: Contentment and Gratitude. Contentment is not the same as happiness. Happiness is a momentary state caused by circumstances. Riding a roller coaster may give you happiness (and fear). A few minutes later you may be sad when the ice cream falls off your ice cream cone. Contentment is a decision to accept and get the most out of whatever comes. I can be content when things are going great and also content when trouble comes. It is a state of mind, a decision, something I have determined beforehand to do. I’m l lucky, too, that I can be content being alone with myself. A lot of my time is spent alone. I’m OK with that. When I’m driving I seldom even turn on any audio. I would rather spend the quiet time just thinking or letting my mind wander. That ability is a blessing.

Gratitude comes from the knowledge that I am very fortunate. Hard work and determination do not always lead to success. I know I am very blessed in my circumstances. I don’t think anyone inherently deserves anything, and the fact that I have above and beyond what I need is something I am grateful for every day. This is not just a result of my hard work. Those blessings do not necessarily mean riches in a monetary sense. But I consider myself one of the most fortunate people I know. I have good health, I can eat or drink what I want, we can plan a trip with good friends and have a great time enjoying each other’s company, we can get together with family and like their company. Basically, gratitude means I do not believe everything I have comes from my own talent and effort. I am blessed.

But this blog is nominally about art. How does that apply? I now approach my art from a place of joy. I have a vision and it is unique. Life has put me in circumstances that let me spend time pursuing my art and vision and that gives me contentment. Since I see interesting things all around me, my art focuses mostly on out of the way things I find that I hope to have you see in a new way. I am grateful to see these things and be able to show them to you through my vision. I hope to bring convey my sense of wonder to you.