This is so true! I was just looking at ole what’s her name, thinking the same thing!

Seriously, this is true on so many levels. I’d go so far as to say that to love something, we must see beyond its identity. We are not our name, age, job, weight, income level, IQ, sex or color. We are something far deeper and more splendid. And yet, we are all of the same stuff. We only seem to be different and separate.

As a representational artist, it is my job to distill the essence from what I’m seeing, that which is most true in a thing. In every line and every stroke I am making a multitude of decisions and revisions. What Monet was referring to is related more to the painting process, than the deep philosophical stuff above.

still life with roseWhat he meant was not to name things when painting. To paint a thing in a convincing way, we must bracket (not focus on) it’s thing-ness. For instance, I’m not painting a bottle. I’m painting the millions of shapes and colors that add up in the viewers mind to bottle.

I tell my students I’ve painted over 80,000 faces in my life, but I’ve never painted an eye or a nose or a mouth. As an artist, it is my job to transform the images I see into the language of painting. A likeness is the result of the careful arrangement of these shapes and colors into something people recognize as my subject.

So shat is the essence? What is my sole focus in each and every stroke of paint? I must determine the 1) exact shape of the stroke, 2) it’s position in relation to other shapes, it’s 3) relative value, 4) chroma and 5) and hue, and finally, the 6) edge quality of that particular shape as it connects or transitions into other shapes.

The way you execute these six elements is what makes your work different from mine or anyone else’s. There are a million possible outcomes for every stroke of paint. The key, as Monet points out so astutely, is not to paint the named thing. That is the road to misery. Because what you see will always be in conflict with what you “know” to be true about the thing you are painting. Rather, learn to abstract or distill shapes into their nameless essences as they appear to you right now. The right brain perceives and the left brain conceives. Representational artists need to develop their left brain.

Take art classes or to give art classes as a gift.