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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Simplify Your Paintings for Free

'Time is Golden' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis sold
Are you a Squinter? I am a 'sometimes squinter'. I try to remember to squint when I am painting but it is not as much of a habit as I know it should be. I do know that when I remember to squint I end up with a more successful painting. Why? Because squinting helps me simplify. And squinting is a free tool that goes everywhere with me! I can plan a painting based on strong simple shapes and value patterns because squinting helps me to remove the clutter of details. Take my reference photo for today's painting seen below:

Reference photo (top) with a black & white blurred version (bottom)

My reference photo is quite busy with lots of details and many different values. If I tried to do a value thumbnail or block in my painting with my eyes wide open I might be tempted to but in the details too soon or I might not even come up with a strong design. Now squint at the photo and notice how you can now better see big shapes of darks, lights and middle values? Compare what you see when squinting to my black & white blurry picture which I manipulated with Picasa. It looks the same and squinting doesn't require a computer or printer! So Squinting is an easy and free tool to help you simplify! The picture below shows my initial block in of the painting. It is based on the simple shapes of darks, lights and middle values that I was able to see while squinting.

Block-in of the painting with NuPastels....blended with a piece of pipe foam

There are some excellent tips for squinting in Richard Schmid's book Alla Prima Everything I know About Painting ( a must have book for your art library) Some of the tips include the following:
  • Close your eyes down just until things start to blur. If you squint too far down it isn't as effective.
  • Squinting is good for judging value. Open your eyes if you want to see color.
  • Don't squint at your canvas/paper only squint at your subject.
  • Practice squinting. Do it often so it becomes a habit.
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robertsloan2art said...

This is wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I don't remember to squint often enough. What I do sometimes though is look at the reference in My Pictures before I open it - when it's just a tiny thumbnail. This is often a good way to simplify it.

Squinting works outdoors though, so that's priceless!

Karen said...

Thank you Robert! What a great idea to use the thumbnail images to simplify! Thanks for sharing!

sharon4765 said...

Your tips have been hugely helpful. I'm so glad I found your website. I hope I can take one of your classes soon.

Karen said...

Thank you Sharon! I appreciate you visiting my blog and I'd love for you to take a class someday!

Janvi said...

This is really an informative blog. Thanks for sharing with us. Painting classes in delhi

Anonymous said...

I also use the squint, but I made myself a thing that does the same without givibg you wrinkles... I biugth a small frame used for quilting glued in a transparent red paper and when you look throught it , it removes all teh details living you with the darks and the lights.

Annie v.