Monday, February 29, 2016

Painting What You See

"Spring Daffodils" - 6x6 - Watercolor - February 2016
Spring is coming.....the daffodils are the trumpets announcing the good news.    I've been painting from reference photos for months and its good to have some 'real' things to paint.   Last week it was holly and this week it's daffodils.    To say 'paint what you see' is harder that it sounds.   Our mind and our eyes make sense of our world and give us short cuts to process all the stimuli around us.   We did an exercise in class one time where we drew without taking our eye off the subject.   I have to admit I cheated a little.   It was hard to draw and not look back and forth.    Needless to say it was not very good.    Later I saw a video where an instructor did the same thing but with an additional twist.   He first painted a wrench without ever taking his pencil off the paper and without looking away from the subject.   Next he drew the wrench from memory.   Finally he drew by looking 50% of the time at the subject and the other 50% of the time looking at the drawing.   The comparison was a) a drawing with 100% looking at the subject, b) a drawing with 100% NOT looking at the subject and c) a drawing with 50% looking at subject and 50% looking at drawing.    The last one was the most successful.   It's easy to get caught up in painting or drawing and to begin focusing only on the painting.    This 50% example helps me understand how important it is to keep a focus on the subject.    It also reminds me that drawing or painting from real objects/subjects and plein air are the very best ways to draw or paint.     It's a discipline and 'painting what you see' is something you have to work hard to accomplish     I've had three artist within the last few weeks say the same thing....'the painting never gets better than the drawing' ....or 'your paintings will never be any better than your drawing ability'.

With that in mind, I'm glad that I have been focusing on drawing for the last month.    I would add that drawing exercises the 'muscle' of focusing on what you actually see.   It's hard but worth the effort.

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