STEP BACK FROM YOUR WORK REGULARLY
(AKA “Stand Back and Squint)
When you’ve worked on your painting solidly for an hour it’s easy to not see “the wood for the trees.”
Critical point....It’s important to KNOW that the viewing distance is different to your working distance.
People will normally view your work from at LEAST a meter or two back from it. YOU need to step back and look at your work often to judge how it is developing from a viewer point of you. What is working? Can you do more of that? Anything not working? How do you fix it? Check your progress.
The “ squint” lets you see your work with similar lack of detail as someone would see it when they enter the room or gallery when it’s hanging. They won’t see much detail from across the room. Ideally, you’d like to intrigue them enough for them to want to see your painting more closely.
Standing back helps YOU NOT get so distracted by details that the composition has twisted out of shape or scale. The ability to ignore detail is a fabulous skill to have.
So that means you should stand back a bit over a meter AS WELL AS from across the room,
Remember, if the general shape & size relationships are wonky, all the most perfect detail in the world won’t fix it or cover it. It will be wonky forever!
How much detail you do is up to you. How faithful you stay to the original reference is up to you. Equally it is OK to change course at any stage of your painting. There is a greater need for you to stand back before and after EVERY change you make.
When your finished painting is hanging you don’t want to realise that something is not quite right with the general look and feel of it.
One of the pros of keeping detail light on is that the viewers without knowing they’re doing it, fill in the blanks from their own visual information. They are engaged if your painting is intrinsically solid! Success!
Something that students often do is compare their finished painting to a photographic reference and can be highly self-critical. So we take a photo of their finished work and guess what? In most, if not all cases, they find a photograph of their work (like the reference) is taken FROM A VIEWING distance and is just as appealing if not more attractive than the original. WOW!
Unless you’re churning out the same painting time after time, every painting you do will be the first time you attempt it. Like a composer writing a story or a piece of music there’ll be a few false starts, but it will be reviewed by the author constantly. As the artist, your painting will evolve but it can to go “off the rails” very easily if you don’t stand back regularly to make sure you are on task, so....
Stand back and Squint!