Tag Archives: great paintings

Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #3

This is the third  installment from the series of posts that will describe my thoughts and  technical insights from selected works included in our newly released book, “Not Far from Home”….Enjoy!

Squinting…….bring on the Botox, or not.

Through the 25 years I have been painting, there is one recurrent problem that will hinder my efforts to produce an effective representation of what I am seeing.  That problem is not properly squinting at the subject to simplify the information enough to solidify the masses and amplify the essentials.  I have “Squint” signs up all around my studio, because even after years of doing this, I still want to open wide to see every little thing.  The whole idea seems counter intuitive.  You ask, “We are trying to see the subject aren’t we, wouldn’t that work best with our eyes wide open?!?!?”  It seems like the answer should be yes, but, most of what we need to lock into is best observed with the non-essentials obscured or simplified.  As I have described squinting in previous posts, I would like to address the technique here.

As I tried to figure out the squint in the early days, I had an approach that looked something like this, minus the gray hair.

Not only did I have a splitting head ache in about 10 minutes, but Botox wouldn’t touch these wrinkles.

Another not so excellent approach is the “Cheat Squint”.

I see this a lot as I teach. As I am harping to “Squint Down”, I have seen some in a stealthy half squint, gathering all the info they can with the open eye.  I, too, have been guilty of this.  :(

The best approach is to gently close your eyes until the lights and darks become more separate or value patterns simplify and the sharpest edges emerge. The key is to keep this up through the process, only opening your eyes to more easily identify the color temperature shifts within the simple shapes.

What might a good squint accomplish?  As is seen in the detail of “Yellow Rose”, (page 83), with the squint I was able to more easily differentiate between the light and darks of the roses and organize the warm and cool lights on her head to accentuate the forms.  When I would look at the subject open-eyed, the simple forms were almost hidden beneath the complexity of light.  Simply put, I was able to wrap my head around the problem and break it down more easily.

Keep smiling and SQUINT DOWN!

book cover new web


Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #2

This is the second  installment from the series of posts that will describe my thoughts and  technical insights from selected works included in our newly released book, “Not Far from Home”….Enjoy!

Creating Dimension…. when to use color temperature or value to turn the form.

One of the more important questions we face in creating the illusion of form with a two-dimensional painting is the dilemma of whether to use value or color temperature within a simple shadow or light shape to turn form. As we survey the subject and clearly identify a form change, many times our default seems to be to use a value shift.  Often this is the case and a value change is necessary, but we must be sure that this is what we visually perceive or the painting will lose the solidity of mass and the beautiful airy quality that we are seeing. Many times it is a color change that is defining the transition and it is so important to utilize the appropriate means to show the form.

The guideline I follow to best discern the transition is …. what am I seeing when I squint. Squinting forces me to see the value shifts more clearly, reducing the distractions of the reflected lights and darks and color changes.  As I am squinting , the question going through my mind is, is it VALUE OR COLOR that is turning the form. If when I am squinting I see no visible value shift, then I must open my eyes to see the color transitions within the simple shape to describe the turning of form!  See the painting below and notice the simplicity of values in the light side and shadow side of the girl’s face. We must keep the lights and shadows separate to maintain the strength of form.  We can achieve this by using color temperature shifts and not value shifts. This is very obvious in the black and white.  The light side of her forehead and cheek has no changes in value. But in the color photo, notice how the forms appear more dimensional because they are warmer on the top plane and cooler as they spin around the form. Notice also Bud’s collar, in the black and white, the shape seems very flat, but in color, we see a top and side plane.   Again, what is very important here is clearly defining the light side and shadow sides of a form and keeping the two separate.

“A Moment to Reminisce  36″ x 48″

The beauty and true asset of this approach is that in doing so effectively, we conserve the values using color temperature to show variation in form within each specific light or shadow side without destroying the simplicity of the shape.  Why is this so important?  So in the end, our paintings have simpler masses and more graphic appeal, while still reading as fully dimensional.   Keep Squinting!  (We will address the proper squinting technique on the next post…stay tuned).

Other paintings in the book that illustrate this point clearly are… “Beginning” pg. 149,“Hind’s Feet Study” pg.52 and “Gentle” pg.70 among others.

book cover new web

Click Book for more info….ENJOY!


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