Learning To See Part 3

Armand Cabrera

The last part in this series I want to talk about perception when painting. To learn to see as an artist we must train ourselves to see things as marks or shape instead of line. Every mark we make with a brush, knife or finger is a shape and that shape has color and value and a quality to its edge. Too often when people start painting they think in terms of line only but this is not as useful to painting as it is to drawing and doesn’t allow you to take full advantage of what painting with a brush offers.

 It doesn’t help to try to mimic exactly what we see either. Some aspect of the process must be visible on the canvas for a painting to succeed as a painting in my opinion. The artist decides the marks and the quality of their edges to arrive at something greater than a photo or real life. The artist invests some of their personality and experience into the image.

 A painting must be a translation of the source not a copy of it. To this end an artist must stop looking at the source at some point and focus on the painting being made. This is important and something often overlooked when starting out as an artist. Beginning artists are always trying to copy things and forget about the painting as a painting.

This is where the idea of selection, organization, simplification comes into play.  They are personal guides to keep the idea front and center in our mind as we work. That means paying attention to the whole painting and the relationship of its components in service of the idea. For us to see as artists we must impose patterns and groupings of color and value, that we decide upon.  These patterns are informed by our imagination if we are inventing  the image or informed by the source if we are working from life. How we design them is the core of successful painting and the cornerstone to seeing as an artist.

Images in this article from top to bottom are Gustave Caillebotte, T.C. Steele, Peder Monsted, Jean Manneheim, George Inness

3 thoughts on “Learning To See Part 3

  1. Agree that this is a great series of articles on learning to see with some interesting insights into when/or how a painting becomes more than a imitation of nature but a work of art.

  2. Nice job, Armand.
    In some ways it reminds me of writing, in that the words on the page are representative of life rather than a literal description. If we merely dictate actual events and conversations, the result is mind-numbingly boring and devoid of all feeling.

    Best of luck in the New Year!
    Jennifer Mathews Adolph, writing as T.D. Hart

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