I was born with a birthmark on the side of my nose. I’m turning 51 in 3 days and I still would have to look in a mirror to tell you what side it’s on. My granny thought Kristie popped me in the eye when we were fist married because she had never registered it before, and I grew up with her!
My wife is a speech therapist and one of our foster children pronounced thermometer as ‘fermometer’. She would have her say Thursday, thorough, and thermos and she did fine, then when asked to say thermometer she would revert right back to her old ways.
These two experiences may seem completely unrelated, but they both resemble something that happens to me as an artist, and I imagine I’m not alone.
When I’m painting, I get into a ‘zone’. I may work on a leaf, a flower, a tree, or a rock and fall in love with it. There’s just something about it, a highlight, brushstroke, or color mixture that intrigues me. Then as I go to another area of the painting I may look back on that area with a wee bit of pride.
Then Kristie comes in and serves as my fresh eye. Often her critiques will point out how my ‘precious’ (a nod to Lord of the Rings) will have to be changed in some way.
Just like that birthmark, I didn’t notice. Or I may have noticed at one point then grew so used to it all that the faults were no longer visible. My initial reaction to the critique is usually not one of gratitude and joy.
I may look at my piece and not see what she sees, at least not initially. My brain has tricked me into thinking that all is well. Just like our foster child who said “fermometer” but was hearing “thermometer”. There’s a disconnect.
Fortunately, my initial denial is short-lived. That’s not to say that I haven’t wanted to shed a tear or two as I’ve altered my painting, but it has always come with great satisfaction at the result.
In the Greenhorn Creek video I discuss the need for an abrupt perspective shift – something that can shatter the false image we’ve created in our minds to gloss over the weaknesses in our paintings. A mirror behind us to view our painting in reverse, someone who will offer an honest critique even at the peril of us weeping and wailing, walking back 10 or 20 feet, turning the painting to the wall for a few days or weeks – anything that will allow our brains to view the painting as if for the first time.
As I’ve built my fine art career over the past 30 years I’ve tried out many different techniques for shifting my perspective, and I’m sure I’ll continue to find new ways as I progress through the next 30 years of professional painting. Since there’s no such thing as a magic recipe for creating beautiful artwork I’m constantly searching for new ways to see my paintings, and others, through fresh eyes.
What have you done to shift your perspective and see the flaws in your own artwork?