In class we are continuing to train our artist's eye to see color changes every time there is a plane change in an object. Above is last week's still life study painted indoors in incandescent light. Notice the "notes" of color on the fruit, and how they change as the planes change. We are not using lighter or darker versions of the same hue to show form, we are making actual color changes. Notice, also, the cast shadows on the different colored cloths. Shadows are cool, however, there are varying degrees of cool. The cast shadow on the cooler green cloth is a cooler shadow color; on the warmer yellow cloth, the cast shadow is a warmer shadow color. As we refine our artist's eye by practicing these studies, our paintings begin to blossom with vibrant color!
Last week we discussed the type of practice that yields the most satisfying results: deliberate practice. In order to grow as painters, we have to challenge ourselves with our practice, not simply stay in our comfort zone, painting over and over again an image that satisfies our desire for immediate gratification. We have to be willing to place ourselves and our ego in the precarious situation of uncertainty. In other words, we have to be willing to fail in order to improve.
In his book, Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin writes of three practice zones:
Zone 1 is the "comfort" zone
Zone 2 is the "learning" zone
Zone 3 is the "panic" zone
Performance progress takes place in Zone 2, The Learning Zone, where the student is challenged to perform just beyond his or her reach—enough to be out of the comfort zone—but not too far beyond as to cause complete confusion and discouragement.
As painters, what we are practicing is not technique, but seeing. With each study, we are challenging ourselves to see the color of light on objects (or the landscape or a figure), on a particular day, at a particular time, in a particular environment. Each situation is unique, there is no formula. We attempt to translate the color changes we see using the pigments we have on our palettes. It is an ongoing journey with each new subject, with each new day. What can be more exciting?