There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly. - B.Fuller
With all due respect to Mr. Fuller I am distorting his original intention to suit my own needs.
What’s in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly?
It’s just an exercise in being acutely aware of your surroundings through vision, to really look at things beyond just what they appear to be at first glance. It’s not about a prolonged staring contest, “things” don’t stare back. What they do offer is a myriad of hints to their true meaning and structure.
You don’t draw the figure of a human body by examining the surface features alone, you draw from the inside out. The skeletal and muscle structures define the surface shape. The play of light and shadow on the surface only makes sense when you understand what’s happening on the inside. You can replicate the light and shadow that defines a surface but without knowing why the shadow bends the way it does, you’re just “reporting” on what you see rather that drawing what is really there. If your subject were to disappear but you have a knowledge of anatomy, you could still make relevant and deep changes to your sketch.
What does the object of your attention want you to see?
My comparison between larva and a butterfly may be a little glib, but I do believe that the way you look at your subject and the skills of perception naturally leads to a deeper appreciation of it.