Lynne Hurd Bryant Art Blog
There are many things an artist cannot paint. They can't paint a face, a flower, a landscape, an animal...only God can paint those things. As an artist, we can only paint three things: Color, shape and value. Those are the only three things we have to work with. If you have a decent eye for seeing these three things, and adequate skill in reproducing what you see, your work will be fairly realistic and it will look like what you are seeing.
The most important thing is the artist's "eye." That is the ability see color, shape and value and how they play off one another. It is the ability to see the subtleties, the nuances of any object and the light it reflects. What leads to so much artistic frustration for all of us is the fact that our ability to see these things is beyond our ability to interpret them. With careful study, plenty of experimentation and patience, we can close the gap over time. We can close the gap more quickly if we remember: We can only paint three things!
Looking at anything can be overwhelming and trying to sort out what we see can be a daunting prospect. Take me and portraits, as an example. I spent my time in art school avoiding portraits, and as it happens, pretty successfully. Up until a year ago, I had done about 4 of them in total and 3 of those were self-portraits. Last year at this time, I would have loved to paint a portrait, but felt it was beyond my grasp. Once I started to see a face in terms of color, shape and value, not as a whole, I felt confident enough to try.
The portrait with this blog entry is not quite what I want it to be. I think it is a little too soft and I feel that the shadows could be more dramatic. I am pleased with it as my best attempt to date. I didn't have any preconceived notions about what it would look like, I literally never think about an end result. It looks like the child, but not because of labored effort. I merely painted the colors of the shapes of value, and voila! A quite respectable portrait.
Breaking down the image into color, shape and value breaks it down into meaningful parts and makes "seeing" it easier and painting more successful. Each time I sit down to paint, I remind myself to consider only color, shape and value and ignore everything else. It is the key to my ongoing success and artistic growth.