SEVEN WAYS THE ARTIST SEES
When you compare a Rembrandt to a Vermeer, it’s hard to believe they were practically neighbors, living at exactly the same time in a little country about twice the size of New Jersey. Although both painted light, they saw the light of Holland very differently. Not only do artists see differently, but often an artist will see differently at different times in his/her life. If you didn’t know better, you might find it hard to believe that the works of Picasso’s Rose period were from the same man who painted his Cubist works. As long as we’re capapble of growth, our opinions are subject to change.
The artist must always be specific about how he/she wants you to see nature in his/her painting. He/she really has no choice; a painting is merely an arrangement of fixed areas of color on a flat surface. The artist must lay down definite shapes that can never move once the painting is finished. If the artist wants you to see nature in more than once way, he must paint more than one picture. That’s why many artists, like Monet, paint in series.
When you look at a painting, you do not see the subject as the artist saw it; you see the subject as the artist wanted you to see it. The artist has an idea about what constitutes the reality of vision. Understand other artist’s ideas of vision so that you can find a way of seeing that’s right for you. Whatever idea of vision is true for you is as valid as any other.
There are at least seven different ideas about what constitutes the reality of vision:
Through the Window Realism – what you see is what you paint. the picture represents everything you would see exactly as you would see it through a window or a door.
Selective Realism – the selective realist says you can’t possibly see every single object that’s in front of you, let alone paint it. There’s just too much. Only three or four objects may stand out,so that’s all you paint.
Light and Shade Realism – unless you’re a bat , you can’t SEE in the dark. The only reason we see is because light strikes the retina . Vision is just light and dark and what we perceive as dark is simply the absence of light. Therefore, the only way to paint is to capture the way light falls on a surface and is reflected to the eye.
Focus and Fringe Realism – the actual image you perceive on the retina is clear only in the middle of the field. Surrounding this clear center of sharp-edged interest is a blurred fringe that grows increasingly blurred toward the edges. Thus visual realism demands a clear center of interest at the focal point, which then shades off into less clarity.
Fringe Realism / Impressionism – since light is the only thing that stimulates the eye, to be true to vision, paint only the pattern of light that impinges on the retina.In Impressionism there are no “things”, only light-reflecting surfaces.
Dynamic Realism – nature is seen as being in constant change. Similar to Impressionism in that it is not about objects as things. Rather , objects are just planes with a tensional relationship to each other.
Dream-World Realism – paintings are images that appear in the artist’s mind.
Conversations in Paint – A Notebook of Fundamentals by Charles Dunn