Painting what you see seems pretty straightforward, but it’s amazing how much of a challenge it can actually be. Our brains want to take over and force us to start painting things the way that we have always thought they looked instead of what’s in front of us.
Let me explain this a little further. Skin tones, for example. You probably think of skin as some shade of peach, tan or brown right?
But guess what happens when you paint skin with those colors. You paint people that look like plastic mannequins. You might be creating depth using highlights and shadows, but the people look artificial.
Real skin has so many colors bouncing around on it. It can sometimes be transparent. We might see light shining through it like the way that someone’s ears actually look red or even hot pink when they are backlit. Other times skin might be reflecting the colors of a person’s clothing or there could be a cool light shining on that person creating blue tones. When we are truly trying to create a likeness of a person in a particular setting it’s important to paint the colors we actually see even if they don’t fit the mold.
Another example that I like to use is when you are painting a landscape and there is foliage to include.
If you start painting every single leaf because your brain tells you that they are there and they should be included, it will not only take forever, but it will also take away the realism of your painting. Think about when you look out at a scene in real life.
Imagine you are sitting down in the grass at a park. You look out at your surroundings. Can you actually count the number of leaves on the trees in front of you or the number of blades of grass at your feet? No. So if your painting is created in a way that you actually could identify individual leaves, then you are not getting a very real effect. As viewers, our eyes simplify forms so that we aren’t focusing on everything at once. If we do the same for our paintings, we will have more success!
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