The Mindset

The Mind of the Artist.

Visual artists, working in any medium (even an iPad!) tend to think in terms of shapes, lines, colours and textures, tones. Some use spatial qualities.

Edward Munch: The Cry (1863-1944)

Edward Munch: The Cry

Artists can observe this way in the real world or  in the imagination (in the mind) or perhaps a mixture of both like the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (right). Munch, in this painting also thinks emotively….expressively…

self prtrait jeffrey_smart

Jeffery Smart: Self Portrait

Due to their long artistic experience, seeing things in this way becomes a way of life for the artist and can develop into a style. (see Jeffrey Smart, above left). Jeffery Smart’s portrait studies of Clive James  are hilarious!

However everyday “seeing” is different.…it is pragmatic! If you go into a supermarket to buy a pear you probably look for size, condition (damage) and ripeness (colour) but never for edges, proportions, volume, angles, colour variation or texture…. that would be inappropriate in that context.

Develop a useful Mindset for Art

Our habitual way of “seeing”  is essential for navigating our everyday experiences. As you step off the pavement you don’t need to look closely at the edge of the kerb every time, its depth, the curve of the road shoulder ahead….you probably focus on the oncoming traffic, and your brain does the rest habitually. You cross the street safely.

However everyday “seeing” can get in the way of developing an artistic mindset! It prevents us from seeing in a new way… with the artist’s mindset .  Also it is really quite difficult to undo the habitual way we look at the world.

Still Life Drawing

However, in my view, still life drawing and painting can help to develop an appropriate artistic mindset fairly quickly. It forces you to “see” edges, proportions, volume, angles, colours, tones and texture and gives you time to try and try again.

Seeing  the”negative”  (abstract) spaces as you work….


ree: Denmark 2012

Another aspect of the well-developed artistic mind is to see clearly those things we normally pay no attention to in everyday life.  In visual art some people call these the “negative” shapes. They are the abstract shapes between objects and other things….the relational shapes.

Small tree

Small tree

 In the tree example the shapes between the branches (in green) are as important to observe as the branches themselves.

.small_tree Negative

The negatives spaces between the tree and the canvas edge are also considered. When you place the tree image on a canvas t(or iPad) the abstract shape made by the canvas edge is planned. It is part of the composition.

Pablo Picasso: Guernica (1937)

Pablo Picasso: Guernica

Picasso took this approach to its limits (right)

negative space illusion

Figure/ground Illusion

There are many illusions featuring Negative Space. Do you see the vase or the faces?

Gallery | This entry was posted in Art History, Drawing, Drawing with ASKetch and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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