All of us know as artists the key to our work is observation. Observation is a skill we can learn like learning the basics in art, in fact they go hand in hand. Without a keen sense of observation and not having an eye for detail you may not be able to paint well. Please take these as tips to sharpening your observational skill set.
- Take in the big picture. When you first look at a scene, object or subject, widen your take on what you are seeing. Look with a wide general scope without too much attention to detail at first. Squint your eyes to formulate shapes and spaces.
- Looking at nature many times all the rules fall short. Nature is so complex the rules may not always apply and quite often don’t. Be flexible in your thinking about what you see in nature. The best way to know it is to observe it.
- Take your representational hat off even and sometimes especially while observing nature. Don’t think a group of trees, but rather line, shape, space, pattern and color. If you start here in this mindset, everything will fall into place.
- Take mental note of your first impression of your subject. Often your first impressions will be the foundation of your work.
- You don’t always need a pencil or brush in hand to observe. Take a walk in a park, forest or nature trail and just observe. Make mental notes as you see them. You will be surprised how easily these images can be brought to the surface when you want them.
- Visit the same spot at different times of day and different weather conditions. Notice the variation of color and light. This was a common practice of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters.
- Take time to actually commune with nature. Listen to the birds, hear the wind in the trees and how it sounds differently from tree to tree. Notice the subtle changes of light and color from minute to minute. When there is a profuse abundance of foliage these changes occur rapidly.
- Paint the site in person. Photos are ok but they do not substitute for actually being on location.
I hope these simple observational tips will help you. The key is to be an acute observer of all of the fundamentals of nature, the rapid and sometimes subtle changes in light, color and shadow. Take time to actually SEE!!