Have you ever found that you had to forget what you know in order to see what you’re working on?
Charles Hawthorne says in “Hawthorne on Painting” to
“Get into the habit of doing what you see, not what you know.”
(for more great quotes visit Powers of Observation)
I’m working on a self portrait. At one point it was going pretty badly. I was too wrapped up in the idea of a self-portrait (remembering it was my own face) to observe the human head objectively as an abstract form in unique space.
So I tried to forget I was making a portrait and focus on the very specific shapes. Ken Kewley says in his Notes on Color:
“The live model is capable of infinite number of abstract forms that do not read quickly as human.”
And also: “When painting the model, treat each part (do not name the parts) as something separate and then compose the parts into a whole. Into a composition. Use as few shapes as possible, do not think human.”
It became like a treasure hunt- where do I see a very clear shape? O! There’s one! And then it became a jigsaw puzzle- how does this shape fit into this shape and then all of them fit into the whole?
The less I cared about my image being a human head and the more I got excited about fitting abstract shapes together, the more a face started to emerge! I’m having fun painting as though I’m making an abstract picture using nature as reference material.
I wonder if this kind of forgetting applies to other areas of life. Yoga with Adriene has a video on forgetting what you know. I recommend it!
Do you ever forget what you know on purpose?