by Janet Glatz
My art students are provided with lots of visual stimuli during art lessons: reference photos, what I'm demonstrating on my own easel, and of course the many beautiful colors of the paint. To a seasoned artist, it seems only logical to allow all these visual cues in, and to use them as we are painting.
I find, however, that it is often difficult for students to remember to compare their strokes, or blending, or compositional work to either their reference photo or to my canvas, let alone both. So I find myself regularly reminding them to look and compare what they are putting on their canvas with the reference materials they see in front of them. When they are able to do this, it makes a big difference in their results. Trying to paint without a visual "map" is like trying to play piano without
Just as important is the habit of listening to everything, I mean everything, the instructor says. So often I give a verbal cue only to see the student go ahead and make a stroke or lay in a shape that goes totally against my verbal direction. Then, a few minutes later, they'll ask a question that, if they'd been listening in the first place, they would already know the answer to and their painting would not need to be corrected.
Too often, as one of my students said the other day, "...we just go into automatic pilot." I sometimes do the same thing myself--and it always ends up a big mess. There is a difference between letting the hands and brain do what they have learned in a coordinated, experienced manner, and shutting down everything but your hand and laying down stroke after stroke with no mind for relational values, tonal corrections, or repetitive nonsense. If you find yourself "zoning out" while you're painting, shake it off! Get back to your aware self immediately, and you'll end up with much better results.