Thursday, June 21, 2007

Looking but not seeing

I'm not a Bible scholar, (my wife and I are Baha'i's) but there is a verse that says something like, "you hear but do not understand, you look but do not see." It got me thinking about how that relates to painting. We all know how difficult it is at times to understand driving directions, how to accomplish some task in a new computer program and so on. We accept that fact quite readily. However, we have been brought up to think that "seeing is believing" but it is not the case at all. Seeing a landscape is a very tricky situation and for an artist to paint a good landscape, he or she must be able to see in ways that others do not. The artist must have a keen ability to detect subtle changes in color, form, values, and edges and put them all together selectively to convey the essence of the subject. No easy task and one that takes years of constant attention.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Eyes versus photographs

I rely on photographs for reference while in my studio painting but I often have to remind myself what the camera sees and what the eye sees in the outdoors are very different. The camera averages the exposure of a landscape and in so doing, the sky may be washed out in order to keep the trees from looking too dark. Another problem with photos is that it looks at the entire picture at once. The eye look and focus on small areas and will adjust itself to see into that area. For instance, I might look at the shadow under a tree and my eye will dialate to see the detail there. A photograph won't do that because it sees and exposes for the entire scene. Our eyes move around and quickly expose themselves to small areas giving us a clearer picture and more information that a photograph can produce.
One photographic solution is to shoot multiple exposures of the same scene or use photoshop to create several different exposures of the same photo in order to see more clearly into those areas which are too dark or too light. That of course will also leave some parts of the photo overexposed and others underexposed leaving the artist to put it all back together with it's appropriate real life values.