Below you will find two images of my friend Theresa O'Neill who is one of my regular models. When looking at the coloured version of the photograph, it may be seen as rather intimidating for a beginner to reproduce it as a work of art. Even when the image lacks the distraction of colour, the details of the photograph are incredibly threatening to capture.
We identify images with their given names that we use on an everyday basis. We are trained to see in the language that we communicate in when speaking and writing. We see may only see the complexion of a face, her eyes, nose, mouth, arms, the window, perhaps her earnings and the incredible detail in her scarf. We see, and we don't observe the simplicity, becoming distracted by all the colour and complex detail, failing to notice the basic foundation of the form.
Often, a newly practising artist concentrates on the little details instead of the larger abstract forms, quickly becoming discouraged or reaching a plateau where they just don't know how to improve their skills. When copying what you observe, you must not see an image for it's given name, as it will distract you from what is actually in front of you. As excellent practice, I will frequently have my students practice from old master copies and images like the ones below, having them draw or paint the image upside down. By doing this, it's more difficult for them to identify what they see by name, and they concentrate more on what they actually observe, instead of making up what they think it looks like in their head. There tends to be a euphoric shift in your brain and lose track of time as you work, and begin to see the shapes and not these terms we call them. Even as an accomplished artist, I still turn my paintings and drawings upside down and sideways to find errors in my work.
As an artist, When I observe the images below, I have gotten into the habit of squinting to the point of having my eyes almost shut in the beginning stages of my work. By doing this, I'm flattening and simplifying the subject into abstracted shapes, virtually not allowing my eyes to see any detail. This practice also reduces the saturation and transitions in colour that distract us. Please feel free to try it, if you see any detail in the images below, your eyes need to be more closed. You will see your subjects differently, a new found beauty will be found in these massive shapes of light and shade. Another practice is to use a black mirror, which will also reduce the detail in a live subject, where you have an easier time seeing the mass tones of any well lit subject (I will be writing a future post with instructions on how to make one)