Bring On the Botox...Or Not

9 Jul 2014

Cover image of Daniel Gerhartz's book, Not Far From Home.
Artist and oil painter Daniel Gerhartz's new book, Not Far From Home, is a visual compendium of his life's work as a painter. In it, you not only find inspiring, lush photographs of Gerhartz's oil paintings, but insightful and instructional information on oil painting techniques as well. To showcase all of the great content in the book, culled from his career as a professional painter, Gerhartz has created a blog dedicated to the lessons that provide a foundation for his work. One such lesson involves squinting. Here's what he has to say:

Through the 25 years I have been painting, there is one recurrent problem that hinders my efforts to produce an effective representation of what I am seeing--not properly squinting at my subject. Without squinting, I can't simplify the visual information enough to solidify the masses and amplify the essentials. I have “Squint” signs tacked up all around my studio because even after years of doing this I still want to open my eyes wide to take in every little thing I see.

The whole idea of squinting seems counter intuitive, right? You ask, “We are trying to see the subject, aren’t we? Wouldn’t that work best with our eyes wide open?!?!?” It seems like the answer should be yes, but, most of what we need to visually lock into is best observed with the non-essentials obscured or simplified. 

As I tried to figure out the squint in the early days,
I had an approach that looked something like this,
minus the gray hair. Not only did I have a splitting
head ache in about 10 minutes, but Botox
wouldn’t touch these wrinkles.

Another not-so excellent approach is what
I like to call the“Cheat Squint." I see this a lot
as I teach. As I am harping to “Squint Down,"
I have seen some painters in a stealthy
half-squint, gathering all the info they can with
the open eye. I, too, have been guilty of this at times.  

The best approach is to gently close your eyes
until the lights and darks become more separate
or value patterns simplify and the sharpest edges
emerge. The key is to keep this up through the
painting process, only opening your eyes to more
easily identify the color temperature shifts within
the simple shapes.

Yellow Rose by Daniel Gerhartz

What might a good squint accomplish? As is seen in the detail of Yellow Rose, with the squint I was able to more easily differentiate between the lights and darks of the roses and organize the warm and cool lights on the figure's head to accentuate the forms. When I would look at the subject open-eyed, the simple forms were almost hidden beneath the complexity of light. Simply put, when squinting I was able to wrap my head around the problem and break it down more easily. So keep smiling and squint down!

If you want to see more from Dan, check out his website and blog as well his new book: Not Far From Home. Enjoy!

**Reader reviews for Not Far From Home**

“The quality and overarching sheer beauty of the book is inspirational.”
--Dr. Bruce T. Faure, collector

“Absolutely stunning…needs to be on your bookshelf if you are an artist or art lover.”
--Tony Pro, painter

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j.b2 wrote
on 3 May 2011 8:11 AM

Your (everybodys) mom always said, "Your face is going to freeze that way"...

Kisu wrote
on 3 May 2011 4:49 PM

Once he reaches about the age of 44, he won't have to worry about squinting because the inevitable effects of age on eyesight will blur things for him ; )  

Kinnie10 wrote
on 14 Jun 2014 5:16 PM

ha, that why when I go into a Gallery all the people there  look really angry?!!! But seriously, by squinting, the values really pop.  Yes, my mum said the same to me too!!

wendygoerl wrote
on 12 Jul 2014 12:31 PM

I find it oddly easy to defocus my eyes to something like a squint. I did it even back in high school, when I was coloring a map for global history and liked the varigated pattern that formed in the ocean. My teacher promptly downgraded it as "messy." And when my paintings to to the fair, more judges than not stick their noses right in to the paintings (once I was criticized for not laying down a base layer of gesso), than bother to view them at the "normal" six feet. And a lot of my work looks ugly up close, but almost photographic at a distance.