I had a disagreement with a friend about doing versus seeing. He pointed out that there are plenty of people who want to be writers, who have lots of ideas, but who either don't write or are not good at it. He felt that those people should be writing, not wandering around looking for inspiration. Practice seeing? I had to explain. Staring at one's sketchbook will not produce art. Drawing objects found around the house might be good practice, but may not be inspiring enough to keep the pencil in your hand for long. You have to feel a connection to your object, or be able to conjure up a connection in order to make inspired art. I think it is easier to make those connections when life isn't still, but when you see life in action.
Maybe I've got the words wrong. Seeing may not inspire you but noticing will. I recently gave my writing students the option to sit in a café and not just write, but notice what people are doing: how they are gesturing, eating, holding their water glasses, and how they arrange their napkins. My professor Robert (Bob) Glück had suggested this to me a few months ago and I was flabbergasted at the gap between what I thought I knew about people and what they actually did. My students returned to class with vivid, descriptive writing, and they added heartfelt and meaningful stories to their observations. Bob called this "plein air" writing, akin to plein air painting. Artists are told that they must paint from nature in order to see nuance and details. Painting from photographs often yields a flat picture. I don't even want to know what painting from online photos produces.
Artists (and I mean all creative artists) need incubation time. You go into your studios, or clear off your kitchen table and make work, practice technique, and explore materials. You can practice a binding over and over until you can't see it anymore or you've poked too many holes in your fingers. Then it's time to take a walk, to let the information settle, and to shake loose a new idea. Maybe you see a father directing his young son how to wash a car. Or a man walking his three dogs who keeps saying, "Come along, girls." The three dogs could trigger an idea for three books leashed together. You have no way of knowing when or from where those creative sparks will emerge, but I have found that they are more likely to reveal themselves outside the workplace.
Moderation. Balance. You've heard those words before. You do have to find a balance between intake and output, but you also have to engage and work hard. Once you make dozens, maybe hundreds of one binding, you'll be good at it. Keep bringing your observations of public life into your private workspace, then make pieces to relate and release back out to the streets.
Solid color and handcolored cranes by the maker at Crane Log