By Linda Riesenberg Fisler
June 9, 2022
In a recent phone conversation with my friend and Honorary Member, Carolyn Anderson, we discussed many things. However, most of the discussion focused on how we see and use that knowledge to interpret things to paint.
Carolyn is a guru when it comes to understanding how we see. Her website is a treasure trove of knowledge in regards to seeing and interpreting scenes to paint. We believe a fundamental understanding of how we see light, how our eyes send messages to our brain and then questioning or using that understanding to capture our subjects is vital to being creative. The way we see is unique.
Making the connection between how we see and express what we see becomes our voice. Understanding the science behind that helps us to capture and express our experiences. In today’s world, we study with master or popular artists. It amazes me how often I can look at someone’s work and identify with whom that person has studied over the years. They may have found their mentor’s voice, but have they found their voice?
I remember a conversation with Kevin Macpherson, one of the many mentors I have studied with. The conversation led to an understanding that if Kevin (or any of my other mentors) could not tell me the technical reason for changing something in my painting, I dismissed the suggestion. I was not there to learn how to paint like my mentors. Someone in the world already had that voice, that certain flare, and there was no need to try to paint like them. Carolyn and I exchanged information on how we saw the subject. She pushed me to understand the fundamentals, but from a position of how the eyes and brain work together. Question what the brain may be telling you. When I teach my students, I don’t paint for them. I explain the technical reasons why something needs to be fixed. We discuss how I see the subject, and I ask what they see. It is always an interesting discussion!
Think of it this way. When in kindergarten, someone along the way told us that tree trunks are brown. The shadows are blue. So we saw brown tree trunks and blue shadows until we questioned and studied nature. Suddenly, tree trunks were whatever color was bouncing off the objects around them. The shade of a tree is a cast shadow; all cast shadows are not blue.
I encourage you to visit Carolyn’s website and read her fascinating blogs. The science behind how we see that, if you allow it, can influence your voice. None of us see the same. So explore and listen to that inner voice. Enjoy the journey!