I am serious – you need to switch off and then on again. Now turn and catch the picture by surprise.
You will suddenly see it more objectively and hopefully any mistakes or hiccups will be much easier to spot.
I am often asked ‘how do I know if my picture is finished?’ There isn’t a simple answer. My annoyingly flippant reply is ‘about ten minutes before you asked the question!’ In other words, as soon as it crosses your mind, stop. Put down your brushes, and take a step back. This is just one of the advantages of working with an easel; you can move away from your work and assess it more easily. Excuse the pun.....
Try propping the picture up where you can see it and walk away from it. I turn my back and go to the other end of the studio. Or several feet away if I am outside. Then distract yourself - look at your phone, have a swig of water, jump up and down – do Something Else.
Another trick is to look at your picture’s reflection in a mirror. This is the reason for the large mirror in most artist’s studios; it’s not there for reasons of vanity, honest! Some people also carry a small pocket mirror as part of their kit. By turning away from the picture and holding the mirror up to look at the picture over their shoulder they see a reversed, smaller image. It can be quite a revelation. This is a great way to check perspective, and also portraits, especially of animals. Cat’s eyes seem to pose a huge problem for many people. Use a mirror!
To assess design and composition, the arrangement of tones, shapes and colours and whether the picture hangs together in an abstract sense, turn it upside down or on its side.
I also like to put paintings on the floor and look down at them. I even continue working on them like that sometimes; it gives me a certain distance and freedom of movement.
You can also put the work away completely out of sight for a while. Weeks, months or years. I often come across half-finished works that I hadn’t known what to do with. Seeing them again with fresh eyes – and maybe more experience – often brings an easy solution.
Slaving over a picture, trying to get it ‘right’ can often be counterproductive. We often become so tightly focused and involved with it that we hunch closer and closer over it, fiddling with the tiny details and worrying it to death. Stepping back to see the overview, the overall effect, can give a whole new perspective. Perhaps those tiny details really don’t matter so much? It’s the bigger picture, the sum of the parts, which holds the story together and has the greater impact.
Perhaps that’s true in Life too?
Classes Update -
We are STILL meeting at Villa Bologna on Friday mornings - the trees there have special A/C, I swear!
For the unnatural kind, Tuesdays in the KuDeTa bar of Le Meridien, St Julians is almost as good :-)