Context is everything to an impressionist painter. In fact, examples are everywhere if you know how to perceive them. Our perception of how light or dark, how warm or cool, and how sharp or soft something appears is impossible to define without reference to what surrounds the target — its context. Of all the ways used to describe how an impressionist sees, contextual seeing is perhaps the most descriptive.
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Sight-Size approach to seeing.
Atelier training often begins with
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Drawing with confidence requires
accurately seeing relationships.
All the Articles on the Site
Here is an ever-growing collection of over 100 articles related to the Sight-Size approach, as well as some digressions. Many of these articles expand on the lessons I teach my own students. Others are of more historical interest. And yes, many contain promotional content to my free guide, books, and videos. You can learn how to see accurately so that you can confidently draw what you see. Therefore, all of the content I produce is centered on helping you do that.
In the previous articles I have explained that seeing impressionistically is contingent upon seeing contextually. For that I dealt primarily with seeing shape, value, and edge. Finally, some might say, we come to seeing color impressionistically.
At their most basic levels, drawing and painting are initially all about creating the correct shape in the correct place. On their own, neither a shape nor placement suffice. To be completely accurate, both must be correct.
After spending enough time on this site, or at an atelier that comes down through R. H. Ives Gammell, you will soon notice phrases like, the big-look and piecemeal seeing. The former is always deemed to be good and the latter, bad. The surest way to avoid the bad and pursue the good is to work on the farthest back straggler first.
When using Sight-Size, a key way to visually check your work is to quickly flick your eye between it and nature (your source). Any errors will appear to visually ‘jump’ out of place. This act relies on a process known by cognitive psychologists as persistence of vision or the sparkler’s trail effect.
The primary route to learning to see and draw is through cast drawing. That is not only tradition, it is also effective. But for some people, due to location or finances, acquiring a cast can be difficult. If that describes your situation, don’t fret. You do have alternatives.
When I was studying at the ateliers in the U.S. and in Florence (1980-1990), our go-to charcoal brands were Windsor & Newton and J. M. Paillard. Other brands, like Nitram and Grumbacher were also in use by some students and ateliers. Now that Paillard is gone, and Nitram has been resurrected, it’s time for a great charcoal shootout!
Plaster cast reproductions are ubiquitous in today’s art schools, ateliers and academies. Did you ever wonder how the molds were made and who makes them? This article, by my friend Andrea Felice, will help answer those questions.
John Collier (1850-1934) studied at The Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany and at the Slade school under Edward Poynter. He was a respected portrait painter and painted many of the famous people of his time.
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You can learn cast drawing in Sight-Size at home!
Learning how to accurately see, as well as draw, is best done through cast drawing in Sight-Size. Ateliers exist worldwide to help you do that. But what if you cannot attend an atelier? Or, perhaps you're already in an atelier and would like to supplement that training? I can help.