Why Squint?

The whole idea seems counter intuitive. You ask, “We are trying to see the subject aren’t we, wouldn’t that work best with our eyes wide open?!?!?”  It seems like the answer should be yes, but, most of what we need to lock into is best observed with the non-essentials obscured or simplified. 

One of the more important questions we face in creating the illusion of form with a two-dimensional painting is the dilemma of whether to use value or color temperature within a simple shadow or light shape to turn form. As we survey the subject and clearly identify a form change, many times our default seems to be to use a value shift.  Often this is the case and a value change is necessary, but we must be sure that this is what we visually perceive or the painting will lose the solidity of mass and the beautiful airy quality that we are seeing. Many times it is a color change that is defining the transition and it is so important to utilize the appropriate means to show the form.

The guideline I follow to best discern the transition is …. what am I seeing when I squint. Squinting forces me to see the value shifts more clearly, reducing the distractions of the reflected lights and darks and color changes.  As I am squinting , the question going through my mind is, is it VALUE OR COLOR that is turning the form. If when I am squinting I see no visible value shift, then I must open my eyes to see the color transitions within the simple shape to describe the turning of form! We must keep the lights and shadows separate to maintain the strength of form.  We can achieve this by using color temperature shifts and not value shifts. This is very obvious in black and white photos. Again, what is very important here is clearly defining the light side and shadow sides of a form and keeping the two separate.

The beauty and true asset of this approach is that in doing so effectively, we conserve the values using color temperature to show variation in form within each specific light or shadow side without destroying the simplicity of the shape. Why is this so important? So in the end, our paintings have simpler masses and more graphic appeal, while still reading as fully dimensional. So ... try it, use it, and keep Squinting!

This article is a quote from Dan Gerhartz. Dan is a great Christian artist ... google him and see some of his samples!