STUDIO: Seeing and Judging


Turning assumptions upside down

Since I work as an intuitive artist, trying to give form to what inner visions reveal to me, it can be tricky understanding when the painting is doing what I want it to do. I don’t have another image I’m trying to copy. How can I tell when the elements I am assembling are working?

Spending a long time revising an image leads to a kind of tunnel vision about it. It becomes so familiar I can lose the sense of it as a whole.

I defeat this tendency with a technique I adopted from the masterful book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. The exercises in this book did more to teach me about how to actually draw back in the day than years of public school art classes.

One of the first exercises is to recreate a line drawing, but upside down. This overcomes the tendency to draw what we think we know instead of what we are actually looking at.

I have found this same technique allows me to analyze weak areas of my paintings in progress. It becomes a matter of just looking at relationships, shapes and colors. I flip the painting around consistently as I work on it, painting it from top, bottom and side perspectives, and looking at it that way as well.

So much of painting is just looking at what you’ve done, so you can understand what you still need to do. Eventually you see that there is nothing left unresolved, and the painting is done.

I also look at works in progress in a mirror, and next to completed paintings, for the same reason. It helps me to see what is missing.

Painting is judgement made visible.

5 thoughts on “STUDIO: Seeing and Judging

  1. I had the blessing of attending an alternative high school where the primary art teacher used Edward’s book as the cornerstone of his approach with students. I remember in-class assignments such as where we would draw objects solely by touch (holding them under the table without being able to know what it was). It was such a liberating experience, breaking down what was already being cemented in our heads by society about what it meant “to do art.”

  2. Often, when I’m stuck on a story, I’ll get into the point of view of another character, even that of the antagonist, to decide what the protag should say or do next. The change of perspective lets me see the action and the inner motivations of the characters in unexpected ways.

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