Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Art of Seeing

There’s a trick to Seeing the way an artist does. It’s a trick of the mind not the eyes. It’s even teachable. Once you can See as opposed to just looking,both drawing and painting become amazingly easy. You just paint what you See. On the other hand, if you can’t See it you can’t paint it. I’m not talking about visual acuity here. You can have 20/20 vision and not be able to See like an artist.

In class I discuss several exercises to learn that trick of Seeing I’ve been telling you about. They come highly recommended. The great Leonardo da Vinci wrote about some of them in his notebooks on the art of painting. I’ll bet you even indulged in one of them when you were a small child. Ever lie on the grass staring up at the clouds? Did you imagine pictures in the clouds? I did! I saw castles, dragons, seahorses and puppies up there. That’s one of the easiest ways to start. It trains your brain to work in a different way.

Another way to develop your artist’s eye is to focus on the spaces between things instead of the objects themselves. Pay special attention to the shapes of the sky between the leaves of a tree for example. Notice the shapes between branches. See the spaces between trees. Look around you and study all the in-between shapes. It can also be helpful to observe the outer forms of groups of objects. Perhaps that bouquet of flowers is roughly triangular in form. You’ll find this will help immensely when drawing or composing your paintings.

Try turning a picture upside down and drawing it. Use a complex line drawing for this. I find coloring books useful for this exercise. If you haven’t drawn well in the past you will probably amaze yourself when you turn your drawing upside down and compare it to the right-side-up picture you were copying.

As you try out these tricks of Seeing, be aware of how you feel. Chances are you are experiencing a slightly altered state of conscious. You are shifting into right-brain mode here. That is the state of mind that is best for drawing. It is characterized by a sense of timelessness. You may stop thinking in words altogether. I find this state of mind both relaxing and energizing.

I suggest you read “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” and “The Drawing on the Right side of the Brain Workbook”. There are many more exercises to help develop your ability to See in that special way in both of these books. Remember this. Whatever you can See, you can paint. All you have to do is paint what you See.

"Painting embraces all the 10 functions of the eye; that is to say, darkness, light, body and color, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest."

Leonardo da Vinci

1 comment:

Brittany said...

I was just wondering if you could send me an email with the details of your art classes, when they start and prices. My email is [email protected]. Id really apreaciate it.

Thank You,
Brittany Stinnett