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.
Seeing. We all do it, but we can do better.
Sight-Size is predicated on a desire to accurately draw what you see. Then, once your eye is trained to objectively see, you can make intentional, intelligent, and artistic choices about deviating from your source. These articles are all about seeing.
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.
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.
The terms Impressionism and Impressionists normally refer to an art movement from the late nineteenth century, as well as to its adherents. Defining the qualities which make Impressionism impressionistic is a bit more difficult.
All too common among self-taught artists (as well as some trained ones) is a lack of edge variation in their work. Although the opposite also occurs, this error is most often made by representing all edges as being equally sharp. But to make an accurate representational statement you must use the full range of edges and this begins with finding the extremes: the sharpest sharp and softest soft.
Context is everything, or so the saying goes, and it’s so familiar that it’s easy to quickly skip past it. But stop and think about it for a minute. In any given scene all values are unconsciously perceived relative to every other value.
Mentioned many times on this site is that you will draw better when you have an accurate eye; that learning to draw is actually learning to see. To help you with the process, in early 2016 I wrote an ebook, titled An Accurate Eye. Awhile back an online eye accuracy trainer was brought to my attention. It’s called The Eyeballing Game and it nicely supplements the book’s exercises.
Depending upon how deep you want to go, the principles of light and shade can be quite complex. Nevertheless, everything hinges on the fact that light travels in a straight line. Upon hitting a surface light also reflects back in a straight line. How much of that light reflects back to your eye is dependent upon whether the surface is in the world of light or in the world of shadow.
Gammell taught his students how to see by having them draw plaster casts in Sight-Size. To do so they were to follow specific and progressive steps. Each succeeding step led logically to the next, resulting in a finished cast drawing that was seen and rendered as a whole. This article more fully explores his cast drawing process.
Sight-Size is normally done while standing because standing back lets you have a distant viewing position. Oftentimes, it is this distance which allows you to see both your subject and artwork in one glance. But standing is not the only way to get into a proper Sight-Size viewing position. You might also sit.
The size of a drawing or painting done in Sight-Size can be equal to, larger than, or smaller than life size. Which size you are in depends entirely upon the placement of your easel, relative to your subject, and your viewing position. To understand that, you first need to understand exactly what Sight-Size is.
As a student of Charles H. Cecil’s, one of the directions you would regularly hear was to stand back a “heroic distance.” In my mind, along with the command, I see Charles walking forward towards the student’s setup and at the same time swinging his arm back behind him. That gesture was meant to push the student back while Charles pointed out something on their artwork or on the model.