Short of lobotomy, we will always have the equivalent of
mental trails that our brains follow when we are painting. Artists develop these
based on painting techniques that they've learned along the way, or they can be
expressions of inherent ideas that each of us has about how to paint. Motivating
oneself to wipe the slate clean of these ideas can deliver exponential benefits
to an artist interested in raising his or her awareness of what they are seeing
and how they see it. Because being wise to those tendencies and having ways to
paint without preconceptions means an artist has more control over their
vision, and not the other way around.
This is no time for subtlety.
||Nelson Shanks sees color and pushes it in ways that are powerful and
seemingly natural as well. Above, Salome, oil painting, 28 x 44.
When I want to get over my
mental hurdles, I remind myself that subtle can be overrated. When you are
trying to break free of seeing conventionally, you have to push it. If there
are interesting lines in a composition, accentuate them. If the colors you see
are more neutral, push them to their extremes. This trains the eye--and
eventually the hand--to make big statements in a fine art painting.
Bronze, silver, and gold. When you want to learn how to
paint a picture in a new way, don't let a lot of ideas crowd you. This is tough
because you can't actually put blinders on, but you can think like an Olympian. Look for the top three elements in a
composition that catch your eye and keep your focus trained on your subject.
Don't fall for stereotypes or generalities. Looking out in
the natural world and to the people and places around us, we often think along
conventional lines about how forms and functions relate and what certain objects
are supposed to look like. Don't be swayed by the idea that a floral painting
"should" just show gorgeous flowers in full bloom. Or that a figure painting
in oil should always be about the aesthetic beauty of the body. Because chances are,
any other painter looking at the subject would see it that way too. Eke out the
specifics so your work is an indicator of your unique vision.
Take three steps to the right.
|Ron Hicks' Petit Femme (oil painting, 14 x 11) is an
exercise in how to see specifically, not stereotypically.
The model looks like a unique individual.
If you really want to see as
you see and not what your well-oiled brain is telling you, in any given
painting art situation, take a few steps to the right or left of your
composition. Look at it from a different angle and stay there to do a quick
painting study. You might discover something about the focus of your attention
that you missed before, and literally see things in a new way.
Painting without preconceptions can also be an opportunity
to relearn many of the fundamental lessons that practicing artists can take for
granted because they have become second nature. The Artist Daily store has
several resources, including Ron Hicks' Mastering Oil Portrait Painting, that
are meant to show you how to hone and further develop these abilities. I hope
you'll give yourself the opportunity to utilize them and "see" in a new way.