Monday, November 26, 2012

The Art of “Seeing” Continued: Catch the Accidental Strokes

The most important thing in learning to paint is learning to “See”. It's vital that you “See” what's in front of you not only what's in your head. You can only paint what you see and you must “See” every detail. When I talk about “Seeing” I mean something a little different than ordinary sight. Most of us see in a very passive way. We go through life looking at things and observing very little of the world around us. An artist must be aware of more. We “See” details of line, value, color, shape and space that the average person misses entirely. The better you develop this mode of “Seeing” the better artist you will be. I call this “developing the Artist's eye”.

As artists we should take in everything. This means your canvas as well as your subject. “See” all the details of your subject whether you are working from photos or life. “See” what you are painting and “See” the painting itself. “See” what is really happening. Be totally aware of each brush stroke. Often the brush, the paint, the hand, the mind and the Universe will conspire together to create amazing beauty. This happens seemingly by accident. It's tragic to wipe it out of existence with your next stroke because you missed it entirely or saw it too late. Don't get me wrong. There's more where that came from, but the one that got away still got away!

I see this in class all the time. I tell a student “That's perfect. Don't touch that spot!” Sure enough they go right back in there and cover it up. Sometimes they do it before I can get the sentence out of my mouth. They don't see where I'm pointing. Other times it almost seems like some gremlin of perversity knocks the hand at just the right moment to destroy that beautiful stroke. Slow down. Pay attention. Don't get carried away with covering the canvas. Stop, step back often, look and “See”. As you get used to “Seeing” in that special way you can speed up a little but always be aware of what you are doing and what kind of marks you're making. Make the stroke then look at it. How does it support the overall design. Change it or keep it then go on to the next stroke.

Pay close attention to the photo or scene and all its details. Just make sure you study the painting as well. “See” what's really there. Often the accidental effects are better than what you intended. If you are too focused on the plan or the outcome you may miss something that is better. Don't be afraid to go off in another direction in response to those happy accidents.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Dianna, I know exactly what you are talking about. Becuase I work mainly in watercolor which can sometimes be harder to control,I constantly remind myself to slow down and digest what I have done with apainting as I progress. One trick that I use is to sit the painting infront of the TV and as I am watching TV I will take intermit glances at the painting and see what stands out to me _either good or bad. Many times I discover that an unintentional stroke or technique has added some pizzaz to my painting. I store this information in my memory bank for future paintings. On the flip side I also discover some things that I need to be mindful of to eliminate from future paintings.