Did you know that you were born into a manner? So was everyone else. Your manner is that which you naturally do, untrained. Even when trained, much of your time is spent compensating for that manner. Of course, I’m writing about seeing, drawing, and painting. And whether you are aware of it or not, the goal of learning how to see is to release you from that manner.
Most art students first set out to learn how to draw. It’s a good goal, and succeeding at it will lead to many good things. But that’s not the full story. You must first learn to see. And if you want to learn how to see, then you need to perfect the feedback loop.
Learning how to accurately see is at once a simple process and a complicated endeavor. The process is simple because all you’re really doing is aligning your eye to a visual standard. But complexities arise because your eye tends to believe itself far too easily. Therefore, over the centuries artists have devised numerous tools of the trade to help overcome this.
Through the other articles in this series I have described the two main approaches to modeling as well as presented some of the history behind them. This article focuses on a single artist who managed to model using both approaches, each during two different stages of his career: the two faces, or periods, of Velazquez.
Most Sight-Size trained artists model using the value over form approach. Modeling in this way helps the artist maintain the big-look (which is representing the image as a whole ensemble), as well as the unity of effect. This approach naturally reduces the chance of falling into piecemeal seeing.
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.
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.
In simple terms, the impressionist draws or paints what he or she sees – but quite often not what he is directly looking at. First and foremost the impressionist is striving for something the 17th century art critic Roger de Piles called the unity of effect.