Stick to your plan and pay attention to reference

Lesson 3

Whatever we are doing, we need some kind of a draft in our head or some plan which we keep in mind. However, it is easier said than done. That especially refers to classes. I have noticed that most people want to draw or paint without any plan and without any thinking. It might be so that when starting out it is hard to know what parts or segments should be paid most attention to. There are lots of simple things which make the object look multi-dimensional. By far, those are not only darker and stronger values. Strongly emphasized edges or absence thereof, always darker spots behind the lighter areas also contribute a lot to the spatial perception, not to mention color if it is used. I remember from early years I was told that the darkest dark should meet the lightest light. It can be tough to implement, especially when not having a real reference, but just a photography or sketch. I am personally not excited about patterns which repeat in a regular rhythm such as petals or trees along the path, blooms on a branch and similar things which we unintentionally place on our canvas when there is no firm plan or sketch.


Magnolias, recent class demo and I always work together with students straight in front of the class

Why am I saying: pay attention to reference? Because most people don’t do that. When we are just beginning the painting, they would have a look at the reference image or set-up. After a while, I notice nobody looks any more at the reference. You have to! The only exception is when it is a completely abstract work which has been drafted in one’s imagination or when we paint from memory. Painting from memory takes practice, however, and beginning artists cannot handle that too well. Reference or value drawing (if you have created such) has all the answers: where to use dark color, where to make strong edge, where to wash edges to lose them, where to place highlights and what exactly the shape of something is. It is extremely important, much more important than what brush to use. Talking about brushes: always use these ones which you feel comfortable with and which suit the size of the area you are working on. Very simple. We can use no brush at all, use a sponge or palette knife, that is a matter of a preference and choice. I know how some instructors want to make rules about everything. There are no rules in the use of tools. It is very obvious that using a very wide brush for tiny spot is simply difficult and vice versa. I know a lot of artists who create the entire painting with just one brush. I do that sometimes, too.


The Pink rose, recent class demo

So, the conclusion is: do not change things around dramatically or completely when the work is halfway through and always keep an eye on the reference. That’s why it is so rewarding to paint from real objects, live is live and photo is just a photo. Live comes with smell, touch, very visible shape and very noticeable values. Do not pressurize yourself and painting: there are moments when we need to stop and make a decision about the next step.


Purple pansies, finished just yesterday

Paintings and drawings really hate when they are not treated with due respect. It is much better to allow everything to develop in a natural way. For illustration I have attached the recent flower paintings. There are many more, but they just need finalizing touches. You know: painting is never done, right?

20 Replies to “Stick to your plan and pay attention to reference”

  1. I am liking the principle which states that he darkest dark should meet the lightest light.
    It sound like a perfect synchronic meeting between posed forces…
    I alos think that your words by the end of the post in which you conclude that we should not change things around dramatically or completely when the work is halfway through might apply to other daily life situations…
    Another great post, which shows that Art and artistic creative processes could be revealing…
    Sending love, dear Inese. Aquileana 🙂

    1. Thanks again Aquileana! My teacher told me this when I was 10 or 12. I remember still everything she told me. That was more than 40 years ago, but I’m following these principles because they have become sort of my credo. Nobody knows everything about everything, but most things she made me aware of really work.
      I am seeing this quite often: starts out on blue with one tree and switches to all grey or purple with a forest. Art is a very logical thing, I’d say there are similarities with daily life. Have a great weekend!

  2. So interesting that you note, most people want to draw or paint without any plan and without any thinking. I think that can be said for many occupations, whether it be artist, writer, or just being alive. We can do so much better!

    1. Yes, we definitely can do much better. I have noticed also that just within some 5 years the attention span has decreased dramatically. The most noticeable lack of attention is with young people, it was to the point that I basically cancelled special teens classes. Everything is geared towards entertainment and when somebody tells me: I would like to draw as you do, I understand they want to learn. In fact, the number of those who want to learn is much smaller than the number of those who simply want to have fun. It is sort of a contradiction: when somebody wants to create something good with just aimlessly brushing around, that does not happen, and so they are disappointed. The lack of brain involvement and the lack cognitive development worries me, and I have written quite a few articles on the lifeschool blog We have strong signals that the brain activity is left unattended and the mental side requires immediate work. It really does. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. You are so correct. Our culture has bought into the myth that multi tasking is productive when actually we are training our brains to hop around like monkeys on caffeine. We’re losing the ability to focus and concentrate. There are a lot of studies out there now showing the damage we are doing. And our young people aren’t adapting either. One study actually said they’re becoming “suckers for irrelevancy ” . Ouch.
        As for my painting, when I feel I’m going off track I realize I’ve stopping looking at my reference. Every time. Thanks for the reminder. Great post.

        1. Thanks Aprille for your thoughtful comment! It is an alarming trend, and we are the ones who can fix that assuming we take more seriously the things that are important in our life. While we we need pleasure and satisfaction, we don’t have to entertain and to be entertained all the way. Our brain needs challenges.
          I have observed this again and again: the reference gets forgotten. It helps when we develop the so called blind drawing technique. That means we look at the object much more often and longer than at lines or painting we create. It happened unintentionally for me because I did not have camera for most part of my life, therefore, I was drawing and painting only from real objects or plein air.

    Bonjour INESE wouahouuuuuu
    Mon plus grand plaisir
    C’est de venir te saluer
    Ce matin chez moi le temps n’est pas formidable
    Toi !!! As- tu le beau temps
    Mais je me dis quelque part tu es là
    Prés ou loin qu’importe la distance
    je compte ton amitié parmi les plus grandes
    Ce n’est que du bonheur dans ma vie, un réconfort dans les moments
    de doute et de chagrin avec grande source d’inspiration

    L’amitié est un sentiment fort
    Il est beau de la découvrir
    Sur ton blog je peux lire tes poèmes , tes créations
    Les messages de tes amis (ies)
    C’est une appréciation forte
    On peux y trouver toutes sortes d’amis Français ou étrangers
    Quelle partage
    Sur nos blogs on vit un monde de paix
    Ce serait si beau que sur terre règne la paix règne
    Passe une belle soirée , prends soin de toi
    Bernard , bises

  5. Bonjour Inèse
    Mon passage sur ton joli blog
    Ce sont mes 2 mains sur mon clavier
    Sur un profil une belle image
    Qui derrière cet écran se trouve une personne de gentille
    La ou je retrouve une de mes meilleurs amies ou amis
    Je te fais un énorme sourire même si tu ne vois pas
    Dans le fond de mon cœur je te l’offre
    Passe une agréable journée
    Surtout ensoleillé ,chez moi le temps pas extra
    Bise amicale Bernard

  6. Bonjour
    mon amie et belle INESE
    Tu remplis mes jours de joie
    Le matin à mon réveil , tu seras présent au cours de ma journée
    Belle Amitié entre nous , tu ouvres mon cœur
    Tu me donnes ce que j’ai envie par tes petits messages
    Des fois je souries quand je suis mélancolique
    Bises passe une belle journée

    Profite de ton week-end et de la semaine à venir

  7. Bonjour belle jeune fille

    Entre nous , nous avons scellé un pacte celui de l’amitié

    Cette amitié une fleur qui s’épanouies au fis des jours des mois des années

    Ces pétales ont eu du mal de s’ouvrir au départ mais ensemble

    On en a pris soin et ses pétales ce sont grandes ouvertes

    Comme la naissance d’un enfant

    Alors empêchons cette fleur de se faner

    Je t’embrasse passe une agréable journée


  8. Coucou Mon AMIE

    Je viens te chanter la ballade des bisous
    je viens faire une ballade des bisous

    Pour te montrer que je ne t’oublie pas

    1)Mon premier sera un bisou tout rond
    Juste sur le front

    2)Mon deuxième sera un bisou tous doux
    Sur les deux joues

    3)Mon troisième sera bisou délicieux
    Sur tes deux yeux

    4)Mon quatrième sera un bisou fripon
    Sur ton menton

    5)Rien de plus beau que de recevoir quelques bisous


    Je pense que tu auras appréciée (é)

    J’aime plaisanter ne soit pas vexée (é)
    Pour que ta semaine soit belle et resplendissante

Your comment is greatly appreciated